Thursday, September 28, 2006

OPEN FOR COMMENTS


Below is an entry form our QHST UFT Chapter blog. In a pleasant tone many issues are being discussed that were brought about from the "questionnaire". I am so appreciative for the active role and the ability for our UFT Representative to listen to all the concerns of this staff. Unfortunately due to previous experience, and the responsibility our chapter has as to not slander its members, commenting on the UFT blog is probably not in the best interest of all. This is not a official school blog therefore I encourage the comments here. I personally moderate all the comments that appear on this site. Even philosophically opposed arguments are published. However I will not tolerate slander of my peers in anyway.

The following appeared on our UFT Blog :

"To the staff of QHST:

I’m sure that many of you are aware that last term we lost the following staff members at the Queens High School of Teaching: From Montessori, Matt Wolkowitcz, Tara Riba, Tamara Baranski and Andrea Galeno. From Emerson, Jamie Yost, Andy Sutton and Liz Fichera (originally from Montessori and moved to the Emerson community). We also lost Minerva Zanca, a guidance counselor from the Freire community. It is expected that some people will leave for other reasons than dissatisfaction, but this attrition rate of 12% is rather significant.

Therefore, we thought it was important to investigate the feelings and opinions of the staff. Saying good bye to these staff members was much more upsetting than any questionnaire we could ever produce – whatever the format might be.

As a Chapter Chair, it is my job to investigate issues that are troubling the staff, ask the tough questions, and with the assistance of a consultative team and the staff, develop a plan to make the Queens High School of Teaching the best it can be. The statements were provocative in their wording, but they were not unfair. There were many options – people could leave it blank, agree or disagree, answer only what they thought would be helpful, or toss the sheet in the waste basket. The purpose, then, was to get your opinions and discuss some of the issues that people have been addressing to me. Last year, one of our colleagues said to me, “Mike, I’m always shut down in my SLC meeting, and my opinion is not appreciated.”

I’m also aware that the questionnaire did not target the needs and concerns of the para-professionals or the secretaries. I will produce a sheet for the secretaries to voice their concerns and Kathleen Grantz, who did not take part in the teacher questionnaire, will reach out to the para-professionals.I do not have all the questionnaires at this time, so I do not have the results for you. A cursory investigation reveals that the real work will be unifying our fragmented staff. The questionnaire was not meant to – as one staff member suggested – divide us. It did, however, reveal that our staff has been divided for some time and that we need to develop a plan to make the QHST a unified chapter.

Without that unity we will struggle with a kind of quiet anxiety that saps our energy and ultimately affects our teaching practice. With a unified chapter, where everyone is able to voice an opinion, we may significantly reduce the need to bid farewell to our valued colleagues."


I would love to hear any and all concerns.

6 comments:

Mr. Barkan said...

Michael

As a new teacher and moreso as a former bank analyst (specifically as a gatherer and interpreter of a bazillion or so number/statistics for most of the 90's for some really big operations), I'm always
interested in seeing percentages like you mentioned fully in context.

Specifically, I wanted to better understand why you see an attrition rate of 12% as significant.

I wanted to better understand the average attrition rate for high school teachers in Queens, in our district and, perhaps, to better support your arguments, what is the attrition rate for new schools in Queens? If you are going to make assumptions about the reasons for staffing changes, the most effective and only significant information would have to do with the reasons why the 12% are no longer at QHST as you pointed out.

As part of my studies in the past couple of years while getting my certification, I had the chance to survey a large number of school report cards, and one of the things that always seemed to jump out at me was what appeared to be a high percentage of staff turnover at every level.

Most of the report cards I just accessed have, at best, 70% of their staff "more than two years teaching" for any school in the city, and only 66% or so for district 26 schools (are there better schools to draw comparisons to?).

It's not exactly an apples to apples comparison, but it at least implies that even at a 24% attrition rate (doubling the 12% to represent two years), QHST would have a higher retention rate than any other school I was able to find.

I'm not trying to shoot down your concerns, but a survey of those who have NOT left the school is not really a meaningful statistic to support your reasoning, since (I'm assuming) your survey will not get to the 12% who are no longer here. A more sound argument might be made from the viewpoint of why 88% have remained here. A few questions in the survey that explore that viewpoint might make for a more balanced survey.

I'm not trying to bash the union or your efforts to try to take the temperature of the membership you represent, but the reasoning behind your initiating the survey is not supported by the numbers as I see them. If I've misread this or the data on the report cards, please stop by or drop a line and I'll gladly take a peek at the numbers with you to better understand them in the future.

That being said, I'm really, really enjoying the job at QHST and, having worked with entirely too many medium and large-sized [mostly disfunctional] organizations, I'm quite pleased with what I've seen so far at QHST.

Rich Barkan

Anonymous said...

How many of the teachers that left did so for another Queens High School?

Ean Corrado said...

First, I wholeheartedly agree with Lori’s emailed response!
The question becomes: Is the site a QHST UFT Blog, or a forum for "Team" propaganda?
If distributive leadership is to be more than a myth (question 4), all QHST UFT members deserve the right to be heard! Allow us "to voice our opinions," open the UFT blog to the mob. Even the rabble deserves a voice.

In response to the latest posting:
As educators in NYC, we are blessed with the opportunity and ability to choose from a plethora of diverse pedagogical institutions when selecting a venue to practice our craft. Unquestionably, with a bit of motivation and perseverance, New York City's Brightest can find employment at a school that best suits both our personal and professional needs. Realistically (though for some of us I know it is hard to believe), QHST is not the best fit for all.
Those that unfortunately left us last year due to dissatisfaction (much less than the 12% cited) were doing just that- embarking on their quest to discover a place they could comfortably call home. Included amongst the cited dissatisfied were two colleagues that moved out of state (I find it irrational to attribute Yost and Sutton's decisions to relocate their families to their dissatisfaction with QHST) and an uncertified substitute. Subtract those three from the equation, plus eliminate those names who in my opinion our students are better off without (I will restrain from naming names), and the percentage falls to one calculable with the digits of a single hand. Remember, half of new teachers flee the profession in their first three years- a number not approached at QHST even by an inflated and skewed 12.%.
Colleagues: If you are dissatisfied, you have a right to be! Do something about it; it is your responsibility to yourself! Forgo the pleasures, however difficult it may be, of air-conditioning and a parking lot. Set sail to embark on a quest to find your own home, but please, do not attempt to stage a mutiny, burning ours to the ground. If you can’t stand the heat as they say, leave! Go where you were… go where you want… and upon your eagerly anticipated egress, don’t let our forward thought, passion, and progressive pedagogy hit you in the rear! In closing, to be direct and to the point, if you don’t buy in- GET OUT!
Ready to get the door for you,
Ean

Deirdre O'Neill said...

Mike,
I almost feel as if you are trying to somehow slight Montessori in your latest UFT blog entry. How do you include in the list of teachers that left one who was a substitute??
And let us address the others who felt the need to leave us...One is back teaching on the grammar school level and in a school closer to their home. Now, was that teacher unhappy here? Maybe but was it all about QHST or could some of their frustrations be attributed to teaching on the high school level? I don't know but it is certainly plausible. Another teacher, as far as I know, is no longer in the teaching profession. As we all know about 50% of new teachers leave the profession. Again is this all about QHST or even more specifically Montessori? Somehow I don't think so. Some are just unhappy in this profession and choose to leave and move on.
Another teacher was made an offer they could not refuse. This teacher is paid more money in this Long Island school which also has a program they desired.
I also take exception to the fact that teachers relocating is being equated with dissatisfaction.
Now could things be better here at QHST? Of course, but isn't that true in every and any school? I think we really need to look at what the real issues are and help those who do want to stay with any challenges they may be having. For those who are truly unhappy then maybe QHST just isn't the place for them.

Michael Lieber said...

I want to explain why I did not want to open the UFT blog to the entire staff. There are three reasons. First, I did not want the possibility of having one UFT member say anything negative about another member. The other reason is that I invisioned the UFT blog more as a kind of electronic newsletter. There is another reason too. In my last school, a teacher published his own newsletter, responding to something I wrote, and was not careful with his language. That created more problems for the teacher.
Dierdre I want to respond to your suggestion that I'm attacking the Montessori community. That is really untrue. The sentence that "it is expected that some people will leave for OTHER reasons than dissatisfaction, is a reference to the teachers who relocated.
The same kind of dynamic would occur if, for example, we had 1000 students and 120 of them left. That would be a 12% attrition rate. We could assume that some of them left because of relocation or for some reason OTHER than dissatisfaction.
What I'm saying is that 12% left and that was -- for the team at least - significant. The fact that many of them were from Montessori was not an attack. It is just a fact.

I do want to thank Wally Brown for creating this space for teachers to give their opinions. I VALUE THEM ALL!!!

I would like -- at some point -- to turn the discussion to the future and what we can do to create a better school and a more unified chapter.

Michael Lieber

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that no one will read this, as it was posted so long ago, but I was being a narcissist and doing a little self-googling at the encouragement of some of my new students after school, and found this article.

I left QHST for a job 2 miles from my home, for a pay increase of $10,000, and to a school with seven other teachers in the music department (eleven if you count the dance teacher, and if you want to include all of the art teachers, twenty).

There isn't a week that goes by that I don't think about my former students and colleagues, who were top notch. But frankly, the new school was an offer that couldn't be refused. Please don't use my leaving as something more than it is.

And Corrado- you better not have meant me.

-Andrea