Jeffrey Scherr Francis Lewis High School 58-20 Utopia Parkway,

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Jeffrey Scherr
Francis Lewis High School
58-20 Utopia Parkway,
Fresh Meadows, New York 11365
Phone (718) 281-8200 Fax (718) 357-5903
Email [email protected]
How do principal’s “manage” unsatisfactory staff while they pursue the long and tedious
processes leading up to the 3020A process?
 Instructional improvement is somewhat hampered by less than satisfactory teaching by
several tenured senior faculty. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that as a desirable school
we have been the recipient of several weak teachers who came to Lewis under the now defunct
UFT seniority transfer plan. Rating teachers unsatisfactory and pressing for termination
continues to be an overly tedious procedure that is detrimental to our students. This is the thrust
of my challenge.
 Traditionally, for a tenured teacher to be referred for termination of license two
consecutive annual U ratings are required. In most cases, during these two years the teacher
remains in his or her position. In some cases, the two years of U have been extended to a
third if the teacher agrees to participate in the new UFT/DOE Peer Intervention Program. The
two/three year period is then followed by another year- and sometimes two- of the actual
3020A proceedings, including numerous meetings, hearings, etc.
 During this entire time, the principal is responsible for providing the best education
possible to his or her students, and to supervising numerous other staff.
 It was my expectation that by studying how different principals deal with this difficult
situation, I would identify strategies that would be helpful in my school setting, which I
would then share with colleagues.
Process
 I distributed a questionnaire to a varied group of principals (Appendix A), and then
conducted small group and individual interviews.
 Findings were then shared and group discussions were held.
Lessons Learned
 While principals clearly must work within the framework of state and local laws, as well
as within union contracts, the path they take in dealing with unsatisfactory performance
differs from teacher to teacher.
 It appears that instructional weakness alone rarely leads to a request to immediately
remove an individual from teaching duties. Instead, in these cases, principals tend to follow
the guidelines and calendar in the DOE and state regulations—a two-year plus process.
 However, when “inappropriate” conduct is involved, or there are serious issues of weak
classroom management, principals are able to expedite the process with the support of DOE
legal offices.
 In addition, principals will take actions on the school level to remove such teachers from
teaching assignments, or to limit their contacts with students, through a gray area of creative
strategies which will be outlined later in this report.
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Outcomes
The current status of the Challenge is best divided into three sections.
First, I have identified the following overriding common views, opinions and issues which
permeate and govern how participating principals tackle the issue of unsatisfactory performance.
Note: In June of 2007, 421 teachers out of a total workforce of 55,000 (0.7%) in New York City
received “U” ratings. “U” rated and “charged” teachers are almost always returned to work,
perhaps with a monetary fine, perhaps at another school.
The reasons cited by principals as the cause of the problem.
1. The process is too long.
2. You put yourself at risk. The system does not protect you as you pursue the process. We
become victims of the 311/OSI/SCI investigation syndrome as some U rated teachers know
the buttons to press to take the attention off them. “I have held back because of this”.
(“Bring them on, I have been a victim of this revenge cycle but I will not let it stop me”).
We always have to worry that we will be accused and charged with harassment.
3. It forces you to take your attention away from those areas and individuals who might
actually benefit from your help.
4. “The process is so complex; I only went for a 3020A when attendance or classroom
management were the issues. I never pursue instructional U’s because you never win. You
are on trial, not the teacher, and they are never removed. The stats show this”.
5. Newer smaller schools have less of a problem because teachers were hired under different
circumstances. It is much easier to therefore mutually agree to “separate.”
Strategies used by principals while they are going through the unsatisfactory rating and
then 3020A process (2 years)
1. All U rated teachers are part of a structured support system with a professional improvement
plan:
“I keep track of all PD offered to the teacher.”
2. “I have avoided 3020A proceedings by getting teachers who have the inability to improve to
come to this conclusion themselves.”
3. “I avoid changing a program so as not to weaken the circumstances of the original case.”
4. a) “I will change a student’s class when I am faced with a parent who will not give us a
chance to breathe.”
b) “I change student programs on an individual basis.”
5. “I find that the UFT/DOE PIP program is helpful in that it takes pressure off the principal for
a time, but it does extend the process into a third year.”
6. “I find that I must pick and choose my battles if I am to be able to run the school. I do let the
minimally satisfactory and somewhat unsatisfactory teachers get by.”
7. “I do not give U rated teachers comp-time positions. Their professional assignments are
replaced with support strategies for the teacher.”
8. “I provide constant monitoring of teachers in the midst of the U rating 3020A process.”
9. “I continue to provide support for the U rated teacher because my ultimate responsibility is to
provide effective instruction to the students in their classes while the process goes on.”
10. Small schools do not have the option of changing a student’s program.
11. The assistance of the AP is critical. They must be the daily monitor, not the principal.
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12. The principal and the APs must document everything.
13. “I use the U rated teacher in a cluster position. In that way I can continue to observe the
teaching, but the impact on any one group of students is minimized.”
14. “Weak teachers are offered the same level of support as the U rated teacher.”
15. I address parental concerns by putting another adult in the room.
16. Pursue the “gray” areas of the contract.
17. “I increase the role of APs, staff developers, mentors, therapists in to the classroom.” “I make
sure the teacher is present to hear the concerns and complaints of parents and students.”
18. “I will change the assignment of the teachers, including to non-teaching duties, to protect the
children from unsatisfactory instruction.”
19. “I have made teachers ATRs rather than give them a traditional program.”
Recommendations by principals which they (we) believe will improve the current process
Solutions
1. Reduce the time requirement to initiate termination to one year of U rating.
2. If we must continue the two years, that should be the end of it. Right now it is two years of
letters and U ratings AND THEN WE FIRST BEGIN THE TRIAL PHASE WHICH OFTEN
LASTS MORE THAN A YEAR.
3. The only way to end this problem is to put the full power to hire teachers in the hands of the
principal. Hiring cannot be subject to seniority and other automatic transfer rules.
4. Seniority alone should not determine who a principal will lay off when there is to be a
reduction in the number of staff. Presently, when that occurs “minimally satisfactory” often
triumphs over excellence.
5. Each year at rating time we must decide in which direction to point our energy so as to
pursue the best interests of students and the school at large.
6. Tenured teachers should be offered a year of “returning to full time training.” In lieu of the
2nd (or 3rd) year of the current process.
7. As principal, I should have the right to remove a teacher from my school if he or she does not
share my vision and the school’s philosophy. I should not have to spend my valuable time
documenting a case.
8. There has to be a way to bring other teachers into the process to avoid “rumors.” Also,
teachers are also often victims of unsatisfactory performance by colleagues. It impacts on
overall school performance data as well as on school tone and public perception.
9. There should be no teacher tenure.
We are currently reviewing all the information and data collected and will include our overall
conclusions and an action plan in our June 13th presentation.
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Appendix A
Cahn Fellowship Challenge
Section A. School Information:
School name and number:
School level:
Elementary
Junior High School
Principal:
High School
Number of years in position_______
Student Population:
Section B. Survey
1. Number of teachers assigned to your school:
2. Number of “U” ratings June 2007:
3. Number of “U” ratings June 2006:
4. Number of 2006 and 2007 “U”s for which 3020As have been initiated:
5. Have you changed the traditional teaching assignments and duties of any of your “U” rated
teachers?
Yes
No
b) If yes, please describe the change(s) for each teacher and the rationale for such.
If no, please describe why you made no changes.
6. Have you changed any of the duties outside of teaching for “U” rated teachers?
Yes
No
b) If yes, please describe the change(s) for each teacher and the rationale for such.
If no, please describe why you made no changes.
7. Do you continue instructional support for teachers for whom 3020A procedures have been
initiated?
Yes
No
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b) Please explain your reasons:
c) Is the support offered different from that offered to “weak” but not unsatisfactory
teachers?
8. How do you address student and parental complaints/concerns about U rated and 3020A
teachers, including requests for class or program changes?
9. Have you developed any other procedures or strategies to use during a “U” rating 3020A
process which have assisted you in “managing” this issue?
10. How do you reconcile your role as guardian of each student’s well-being and education
with your obligation to follow regulations regarding unsatisfactory personnel?
11. What changes in union, city and/or state education laws and regulations would assist you
in dealing with U rated personnel?
Other Comments:
Thank you for your participation.
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