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43 Palo Alto teachers receive tenure

Original post made on Mar 27, 2012

Forty-three teachers representing most of Palo Alto's public school campuses will gather today for a yearly event known as the "tenure celebration."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 9:38 AM

Comments (29)

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Posted by Eager to learn
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2012 at 10:44 am

The reporter does not explain why a primary/secondary school teacher needs tenure. What principle of academic freedom compels the protection of grammar school or high school pedagogy to such degree that the teacher must be forever insulated from personal accountability or performance standards? Perhaps some commenter will explain; I'm all ears.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2012 at 10:47 am

I hardly feel like celebrating this. The tenure system and the teachers union are destroying education in America. This feels a little like celebrating another victory by Attila the Hun. Good for him, bad for us.


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Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2012 at 10:50 am

Eager to learn,

Tenure policy is not a local decision. It is determined by the state legislature and governed by the California Education Code. Regardless of what doubtless are widely varying local views on tenure, the Palo Alto school district is subject to the Ed Code. This appears to be the latest version of the section about permanent status for teachers: Web Link


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Posted by Nick
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2012 at 10:51 am

What other job gives you this level of protection after just 2 years of service? Plus a lifetime pension?

The 90%+ of great teachers would be better served by a system that allows for performance evaluations and terminations like any other job. Then it would be easier to respect the profession at the level it deserves, and we'd almost certainly see student performance increase commensurate with the exorbitant funding we're providing.


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Posted by Eager to discontinue tenure
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2012 at 10:59 am

Eager to Learn: I have been against this California Education Code for years. After only two years of teaching, teachers get their tenure. It is not a good idea to give tenure so quickly- tenure means that the teachers have permanent status to continue teaching regardless of their teaching skills. This does not exist in any other field. California is considered one of the worst performing states in education. And though I know that California's poor record is due to several things not just this, the tenure after 2 years- does not help with our students' education.


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Posted by Jim Mitchell
a resident of University South
on Mar 27, 2012 at 11:35 am

It is amazing to me to see that tenure is granted to elementary and high school teachers at all, much less after only two years. In this center of technology you will find zero tenured positions in any of the high tech companies on the peninsula. Those companies are successful because it is also possible to fail and go out of business. This dynamic, like natural selection, improves our population of businesses and greatly increases the chances for success. I wish the same dynamic that rewards performance and works to correct problems were extant in our school systems as well. Tenure is the opposite of this dynamic, and it does not improve our educational system. Only better teachers and adequate funding can do that.


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Posted by Michael O
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 27, 2012 at 11:36 am

Tenure must be the reason that the Palo Alto Unified School District is so low performing. Maybe if there were no tenure the schools here would actually be any good. We're obviously failing our school children by letting this tenure nonsense go on in Palo Alto!!! Call your state representative right away to get rid of tenure in PAUSD or your Palo Alto student might end up a miserable drop-out! Or worse! And let's cut teacher pay while we're at it -- then our Palo Alto students might have a fighting chance, because what we have now is a miserable academic failure of a school district. All because of tenure!


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Posted by FrankF
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 27, 2012 at 11:49 am

>In this center of technology you will find zero tenured positions in any of the high tech companies on the peninsula...

Quite true, neither will you find "Lifetime pensions" What you will find in most other careers - certainly the High Tech ones is much higher salaries and stock options.

So OK let's get rid of tenure and go to performance based pay - are you ready to half again or maybe double the pay base of the states teachers? Since stock options don't make sense in the school district how about a bonus paid for each of student that graduates College?

I'm not sure those are bad ideas - my point its only that tenure, good benefits and pension come as part of a package - eliminate them and this package does not compete very well with most other careers (not around here).

I say congratulations to these Teachers (tenure in this context does not mean the same thing that it does at the University level).


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Posted by G3
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Tenure was instituted at the university level for good reasons. Those reasons do NOT extend to lower levels. Tenure for grade/middle/high schools is a travesty. Get rid of it.


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Posted by Depressed re Education
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 27, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Tenure exists in K-12 because the teachers unions want it, the politicians need their votes & contributions, and the public doesn't care enough to do anything to change it. The problems is us. The next time you get a mailer for an initiative and there's a sympathetic nurse, teacher, police or firefighter, you should reflexively vote NO.


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Posted by unions dominate us
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 27, 2012 at 1:02 pm

IF tenure is to be granted, there must be a longer proving period. I don't particularly believe the tenure system should be continued, but this first point certainly stands.

I know of examples of teachers who were rushed through the tenure process and should not have been granted tenure in PAUSD.

On the other hand, I know some outstanding teachers over the years, who should be elevated above the others. Teachers who have more time/seniority get advantages over harder-working, more intelligent, gifted teachers in some cases. The system CAN be abused and students suffer for it.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2012 at 2:03 pm

You can't get rid of tenure without killing the teacher's union, they protect tenure to protect themselves. But the easy solution for the teachers union is to jail the lot of them for crimes committed against our children, fighting for the right to foist a sub-standard education on our kids. Get rid of the union and everything else will begin to fall into place. Keep the union and institutions like New York's "rubber room" will continue to exist, draining away education resources to pay full salary to "teachers" that are so bad they cannot be allowed near kids. And yet, they cannot be fired because they are tenured.


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Posted by Ed
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 27, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Tenure for ele\ementary and high school teachers preceded unions by about 40 years. It came about, at least in part, because as teachers' pay increased with experience, some schools simply replaced them with younger teachers. Also, local views of clothing, smoking, drinking and whether married women should be in the work force, made holding on to the job very uncertain.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Zat so? Apparently the cure has now become the disease.


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Posted by Dad
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 27, 2012 at 4:09 pm

If the deliberate tradeoff is the following, then I'm good with it.

"Look, we're not going to pay teachers very well but you will get summers off and you will get guaranteed jobs for life (i.e., tenure). So that's not so bad, right?" .... then that's fine.

But just acknowledge it and be upfront.


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Mar 27, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Another disgusting sellout of the children to the greed of the teachers' union.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm

"Another disgusting sellout of the children to the greed of the teachers' union."

Amen brother. The kids are the big losers because the critical time of their lives, which should be preparing them for the world, is lost to a horrific education system thst, even if it worked, would meet the needs of the world 50 or 60 years ago when college was not so highly required as it is now.

Anyone here seen "Waiting for Superman"? If you have not, go rent a copy.


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Posted by Mr. Holland
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 27, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Call the waaaaambulence people. Nothing like techie know-it-alls, putting down teachers and their unions. Walk a mile in their shoes. Try teaching for awhile. You'll see how easy it is.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2012 at 5:32 pm

"Call the waaaaambulence people. Nothing like techie know-it-alls, putting down teachers and their unions. Walk a mile in their shoes. Try teaching for awhile. You'll see how easy it is."

I have a better idea my friend: Try getting your kids middle school teachers to hold up their end of a bargain they make with you and your child, and then punish your child for their failure, over and over. At some point you need to just pull your kid out of the school and homeschool them to protect them from the teachers and administrators. Am I bitter? Yup, been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it. But of course, those teachers are still there and cannot be removed. Homeschooling was the answer, and my daughter is doing VERY well now. She tried high school, more of the same, back to homeschooling. At this point she does not trust the school enough to even give it a try, and I don't blame her.

This is now whining, this is anger, pure and simple. Don't worry, the schools worked hard to get it from me.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 27, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Do high school kids taking the SAT tests ever wonder how well their teachers scored? It's probably unknowable, but the range might be interesting, just to give the students a target other than their own overachieving teenaged peers. Or to assure Palo Alto parents that the school district really is hiring sharper than average people.


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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 27, 2012 at 7:45 pm

My mother was a high school teacher (in another city) for decades, and a damn good one. She worked long hours at home at night and weekends on lessons and grading, cared deeply for her students, and received a very modest salary. Clearly much has changed since then, but please don't bash teachers for decisions made by their unions.


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Posted by HS Teacher
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Many people misunderstand what has been termed "tenure" here. Elementary and Secondary teachers do not have "tenure" in the same way that a college prof does; being classified as a "permanent" employee simply means that there has to be a valid, documented reason to fire a teacher. Unfortunately yes, in practice this does insulate some bad teachers. However, as a high school teacher who has taught outside PAUSD (rarer than you would think at my site) and who has a spouse who teaches in another district, I can tell you that the vast, vast majority of teachers that I know and have professional contact with at my site are consummate professionals, and I would have absolutely no concerns if they were to teach a child of mine. (The pressure cooker environment that is, in my opinion, created mostly by the students and their parents might give me pause, but not the teachers.)

Thank you to those posters above who support teachers and recognize that we have a difficult job. I, along with most of the other teachers that I know, am not looking for your sympathy, your pity, your accolades (although the accolades are always nice to hear). What I would like most of all is a simple acknowledgment of the difficult work that I and my colleagues do to help to educate your child, and a measure of respect commensurate with the importance of that task.


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Posted by A Noun Ea Mus
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 27, 2012 at 11:36 pm

43 teachers worked hard to achieve a job and tenure. Then on the eve of their celebration the above inanae diatribe occurs. I have to wonder if PA Online is making this news in order to stoke the fires of Uber Resentment of the Elite? I look above at the postings and I am ashamed to live among you. I raise my kids here, but surely don't belong.

I will have to develop the habit of getting off 101 on Embarcadero or University and hocking a big luggee in salute to the disgusting upright primates living in this area.


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Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 28, 2012 at 10:15 am

"43 teachers worked hard to achieve a job and tenure."

43 people successfully breathed for ywo years and earned the right to continue to be paid for their jobs in perpetuity even if they functionally stop doing those jobs. On the flip side, the city has lost the right to terminate any of those 43 people for poor or non-performance. Those 43 people have a good reason to celebtate. They no longer have to actually work to get paid (though, admittedly, most of them WILL work and will work very hard.) If any of them chooses to spend the rest of their career reading magazines in class and simply keep the kids form killing each other, they now have full rights to do just that and no one can object. They are now entitled.

For myself, my kids, my neighbors, I see no reason to celebrate this automatic granting of entitlment. But try to turn it off and you will have the teacher's union breathing down your neck.


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Posted by Slowly shaking head
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 28, 2012 at 10:26 am

"On the flip side, the city has lost the right to terminate any of those 43 people for poor or non-performance. "

The city never had the right to terminate any school district employee.

"If any of them chooses to spend the rest of their career reading magazines in class and simply keep the kids form killing each other, they now have full rights to do just that and no one can object. They are now entitled."

You obviously do not understand what tenure means at the K-12 level.


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Posted by Michael O
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Mar 28, 2012 at 12:16 pm

It remains absurd to complain that tenure has made the education at PAUSD worse, and completely uncertain that eliminating it would improve anything.

No, I'm not a school teacher, no I don't have tenure anywhere, and, yes, I have children in PAUSD.


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Posted by Herman
a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2012 at 4:17 pm

It's amazing to read the one sided responses to the teacher tenure issue, and yet the voting public in California and Palo Alto continue to vote in politicians who are 100% beholden to unions, the teacher union in specific.

There will never be the needed changes to public education in California until new, and non-union supported candidates are elected. As a graduate of Gunn, its amazing to me how many parents are now sending their children (at enormous cost) to local private schools that were never ever considered a short 25 years ago. Those schools are merit based!


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Posted by FactCheck
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 29, 2012 at 1:00 pm

"Tenure" actually means permanent status which actually just means the employer has to show cause to fire you. Non"tenured" teachers can be released for any reason (e.g., the admins. decide they don't like you). Most bad teachers are identified before tenure or quit on their own. And look up an L.A. Times story about firing teachers. Someone finally got smart and looked at the actual numbers and wouldn't you know it there have been way more teachers fired than anyone realized (not just laid off for budget cuts). Those teachers that stay often last longer than principals and deserve some protection. In places without those protections teachers are often fired for petty politics like disagreeing with the principal about teaching (and often the teachers know more about it), so these teachers are often using their protections to protect the quality of teaching. If you're against strong teachers union you must have some magical belief in perfect and enlightened educational administration. In states without union protection you hear about teachers living in fear of admins. who might just want to hire their friends or do other kinds of nepotism/favoritism. And schools are not like other jobs because (as you can see from Palo Alto forums) our work is part of a political sphere (math wars and reading wars and even now guidance wars) and teachers can't just go knocking next door and find some other firm, some other start-up tech company, and start midyear. If you want to quote ed code - great idea! - you should look at all the reasons teachers can be fired if the admins. do their job and show cause. If you think unions are a problem, consider that union states outperform non-union states in almost every measure of educational quality. Same can be said internationally - top nations have strong unions. So those of you who don't understand the workplace, the whole ed code, or any facts about schools and unions beyond the one-sided nonsense you post here or see in propaganda like Waiting for Superman (did they talk to even 1 teacher or mention that charter schools overall don't outperform others?), please open your minds and learn something.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 31, 2012 at 7:41 am

At the elementary school my children attended, there were several teachers that parents dreaded. One sent kids out of her classroom to time out alone outside, one was incredibly mean and sarcastic, one was flustered and confused, and one had as many sick days as days she showed up to work. All were tenured.
I cannot think of another profession where deficiencies known to all are allowed to continue. It is even worse to think of the class full of students every year who lose the class placement lottery and get stuck with these teachers.


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