Tiff at the SRC
By Dale Mezzacappa on Feb 18, 2009 10:37 PM
There was a testy exchange, to put it mildly, at the School Reform Commission meeting today. Superintendent Arlene Ackerman lit into to commissioners Heidi Ramirez and Martin Bednarek for failing to support two resolutions contracting with Teach for America the the New Teacher Project for next year.
Ackerman accused the two of making a deal and snapped, "The SRC should reform itself." She warned that the failure to act now could result in schools opening in September with hundreds of vacancies.
Despite the tongue-lashing, the two stuck to their guns.
Ramirez said she has not received data she has been requesting for months about the "long term supply and demand" situation for teachers in the city and was reluctant to keep relying so heavily on TFA and NTP to fill vacancies until she had more information. Among other things, she said she wanted data on where the district would be hit hardest with retirements and what local universities were or weren't doing to supply teachers in the needed areas.
Bednarek didn't express substantive concerns, but said he would stand by the SRC's practice of deferring to a fellow commissioner who questioned a resolution. Since there are only four members of the SRC, a tie equals a defeat -- so the resolutions didn't pass.
Ackerman was livid, accusing the two of putting SRC "tradition" before the needs of children. Later, she said that she wasn't sure any amount of information would satisfy Ramirez.
But underlying this spat is a crucial issue: teacher quality. Ackerman unveiled the first draft of the strategic plan yesterday, and the big news is the intention to adopt a "turnaround" strategy for the lowest performing schools that will involve rebuilding staff and leadership either internally or by bringing in outside managers. Sprinkled throughout were references to professional development, the need to step up teacher recruitment and streamline hiring, and plans to hold adults accountable for results. But the kind of wholesale change that Ackerman is seeking through the "Imagine 2014" process -- the name for the five-year plan -- will never happen unless teaching and learning in the classroom is transformed. And that won't happen unless the district has a detailed plan -- and the means -- to build and support a stable, high-quality teaching force.