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May 2013

Warning to New Teachers in Houston ISD

Good morning to all!

 Read this email from my union rep. This morning we also received an email that states the principals are being told they are not firing enough teachers.

This is the sick process education reform has created in big city districts. They just churn through teachers, especially new ones, as fast as they can with no regard to the person’s life, skill set, or qualifications. The harm they do to the students by destabilizing their neighborhood schools cannot be measured. They don’t care if you are a blazing success in the classroom; your teaching certificate is basically meaningless to the administration.

If you are a TFA recruit, you don’t even need to teach in your subject area, much less study for a certificate. You will get treated like royalty even though you only receive five weeks of training and never studied in the subject area you are selected to teach.

Last year a TFA recruit told me he was a political science major from Georgetown, and he had been assigned to teach “Applied Science.” He asked me in the hall, “What is applied science anyway?”

 In my case,

Chief of High Schools (Orlando Riddick): brand new to the job

School Support Officer SSO or SIO (Xochitl Davila) (otherwise known as regional superintendent): brand new to the job—Michelle Rhee wannabe---previously served at Lee HS as principal

Principal: 28 years old with no experience, and she comes from the lowest performing charter school in the state of Texas (Amber Wilson/Williams) Hope Academy--I believe it is a White Hat Management entity

Dept head: 26 year old TFA recruit with no subject area degree (communications) and no experience (Britney Maloney) Handpicked by Davila

 In the student’s mind, a standard classroom teacher is a disposable throwaway. They see no reason to follow the rules, do their homework, or take the exams seriously. They know the teacher will probably get fired, possibly in the middle of the year. They have no respect for their teacher, and no reason to believe their teacher has any ability to discipline or instruct.

This is the message inner city students have been receiving for over a decade. This is the message reformers convey to the students, the parents, and the taxpayer.

At new teacher orientation you are led to believe something much different; at the job fair, and in the media, you are told that working for HISD is wonderful, with a fair evaluation system, great pay, and fabulous bonuses.

Working at HISD is the biggest mistake I have ever made.

I was warned about education reform. I was told not to do this, and I didn’t listen.

 Honestly, I didn’t even know what “education reform” meant…I thought it was a bunch of talented people swapping ideas about how to best educate the children of poverty. I thought it would be fun, challenging, and engaging. In my ridiculous mind, I could see a group of teachers sharing ideas, lesson plans, and stories. I really believed I was going to learn something positive about public school. I didn’t know it was a scam engineered to deprofessionalize the teaching business, and hand the jobs off to cash strapped ivy leaguers that couldn’t find positions in their fields of study.

Now I know that people like Michelle Rhee made millions off the backs of the teachers she fired. I know that most of these people have cheated, including some in my own Apollo program. The Atlanta Journal Constitution even did a nationwide study, and can prove mathematically that these districts have failed to educate these students in spite of their “so-called” reforms. This wrong-to-right erasure math is indisputable…

As for me, I don’t need a study; I can tell everyone about the chaos, the achievement gap, the poverty, the filth, the lies, and the smokescreen.

 It is funny that Arne Duncan (Obama's Secretary of Education #erasetothetop) came out here and toured Lee HS with my SIO, and he listened to a few talented students, and the police cracked down on the school before his arrival, and they managed to sign up all of the students to some kind of college (mostly 2 year institutions) and convince Arnie that it is a “turnaround success.” But you only have to look at him closely to see he is a Walmart kind of guy. And now we have the privatization of the public trust…we have the Walton Foundation, The Broad Foundation, The Gates Foundation, and countless other vultures, and venture capitalists, including Pearson (the great testing empire), all throwing money to this “teacher witch hunt” fully engaged in the age-old philosophy of “you gotta spend a buck to make a buck.” So, they are making the bucks off of me and my students, and I am helpless to stop them.

I asked my leaders for help, but I was ignored.

 Subject: Conf. for the Record- 48 Hour Notice

 I have been getting phone calls from people who are entering meetings with administration that turn out to be Conferences for the Record.  Please disseminate this message to our membership:

 Upon entering a meeting, always ask, "Is this a conference for the record?"  ALWAYS! Never assume they are calling anyone in to have coffee.  A conference for the record will go into the employee file.  It will, usually, entail some kind of adverse, punitive action against the employee. Therefore, always, always, preserve your right to representation and request that I be present during these CFR's A CFR should always have a 48 hour notification attached to it. Respectfully, decline to participate in the meeting if the administration confirms it is a CFR.  Advise them that I (employee) will be more than happy to participate in the CFR as soon as I secure representation. 

I have been told, repeatedly, today that the principal said the SIO is on the way to fire you if you don't resign.  DO NOT RESIGN!  IF YOU RESIGN, WE CANNOT RESCIND THE RESIGNATION!!!  It is better to err on the side of caution.  Call if you're in doubt.  This is your career, your future.

 Corina Ortiz,
Representative- Houston Federation of Teachers
3100 Weslayan, Ste. 255
Houston, Texas 77027