It however is even worse than that because the super has known about many of the problems at First Coast since at least last Fall and I know so because I personally told him, not that he shouldn’t have also known bringing Brennan in was going to be a disaster. You see Brennan did the same thing at Forrest, now Westside high school. They too had a veteran staff that he ran/bullied off. Now some of you might say, but didn’t the grade at Forrest go up and the answer is yes it did, but the reason has more to do with forty percent of the student body also leaving under his watch than anything else. Hundreds took opportunity scholarships and went to Atlantic Coast and others just left for Ed White. It was not uncommon to meet children there who said Brennan had in effect run them off.
With all that being said Superintendent Vitti now has an opportunity to do things the right way and that’s to address discipline and how the district treats its teachers.
If the district wants to be successful it cannot run off it’s veteran teachers and throw its rookies to the metaphorical wolves and principals that do are the ones that should be run out off. Teachers should be respected and supported not ridiculed, marginalized and bullied. The district should treat them like valued colleagues rather than easily replaceable cogs and go to them to find out what works and what doesn’t instead of ignoring them.
Now I am not saying poor performing teachers have to be kept or coddled but all to often new principals feel the need to clean house and are not above bullying teachers out the door. Not all principals do this but enough do and Vitti could look at the TNTP survey that the district paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to find out which principals have lost their staffs and do soemthing about it.
The problem though is when the teachers at First Coast cried out for help, only 29% said it was a good place to teach and learn, the superintendent replied that Brennan was one of the best we had. He knows morale is terrible throughout the district too and this sent shudders down the spines of many teachers. I also know many who didn’t even complete the latest survey because they thought what does it matter what they say and to be honest if Vitti’s reaction to such a dreadful score is to praise the principal then what does it matter.
I have written several times that forty million from a group of philanthropists is great but a respected motivated, and supported staff is priceless. We have tried to bully teachers to success and now it is time we tried supported them to success instead.
Then there is discipline. The super can try his restorative justice experiment but not at the expense of consequences for poor behavior and for a consequence to be effective it must be meaningful. Most middle and high schools already have the mechanism in place, ISSP to give meaningful consequences unfortunately most kids think the way they are run is a joke.
ISSP should be a place where kids do not want to go. Once there they should be kept apart and silent, only speaking if they raise their hand to ask for help on an assignment. They should have two bath room breaks where they go as a group and eat lunch before or after the rest of the school sitting alone at tables. Then if they act up, are absent, or don’t complete their work then they get another day tacked on.
The lets over correct some, talk back or are rude to a teacher the first time its a day but the second time it is three, tardy three times, that’s two days in ISSP. If kids know its going to suck and suck for days, then they will work to avoid it.
There are however some offences that require being suspended and fighting just once not four times as the current code of conduct says is one of them. The first fight unless a kid is defending ones self should be met with at least a three day suspension, the second five and by the time the third fight rolls around alternative school. Furthermore kids that get in multiple fights or are habitually disrespectful should be forced to meet with mental health counselors or social workers to get to the root of the problem which I bet nine out of ten times will have nothing to do with school.
Then there is parental involvement which some parents need to be nudged to do. I think the district should suspend the heck out of kids but then suspend the suspensions if parents agree to shadow their child for a day. I know if Ruthy G had to shadow me for a day that would have nipped a lot of problems in the bud. Mr and Mrs So and So we are going to suspend your student for three days unless you come to school and spend the day with them. Then it is on the parents to be parents.
If we develop rookies and support veterans, if we have disciplined schools where kids can learn and teachers can teach then we will turn this thing around. Anything short of that and we will just spin our wheels and I for one am tired of that.
The superintendent has a real opportunity here and that is to finally do things the right way. It’s sad that having disciplined classes and respected and supported teachers has not been our starting point all along but it doesn’t mean we have to keep doing things the wrong way.