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Tenure celebration fetes newly permanent teachers

Original post made on Apr 10, 2013

Forty-two Palo Alto teachers as well as Jordan Middle School Principal Greg Barnes were honored for achieving permanent employment status Tuesday in a tenure celebration at school district headquarters.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 12:37 PM

Comments (26)

Posted by John, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I'm sorry but that is just wrong and is part of what is wrong with the California public school system. NO ONE should have permanent employment, whether it be after 2 years or 10.

Posted by Gary, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Apr 10, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Actually, John, you are "just wrong and (are) part of what is wrong with ...California"

Just thought I would use the same amount of logic that you used in your opinion, also, for ease, the same inane verbage.

Congrats to all these hardworking teachers! American working heroes, all.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Overused Words, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 10, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Gary: I think I am going to be physically ill if I hear one more abuse of the word "hero". So a hero is someone who shows up for work? I guess I am hero for typing this message.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

All of us are grateful to our teachers for doing a good job. But they are paid well (as many others have proven with data). Being provided with job security for life is not something for the community to celebrate. Maybe for them as individuals but not for the rest of us who pay their salaries and find them unaccountable. Fantastic to see how everyone with a public sector job that is unionized, pensioned and secure for life is now suddenly a "hero".

Posted by Gary, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Apr 10, 2013 at 1:52 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Gary, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Apr 10, 2013 at 2:16 pm

American workers ARE heroes.

Compare them to others, such as the talking head class, perhaps a Glann Beck or Jon Stewart. Or sports heroes. Paris Hilton, anyone?

I'll stick with the great American Middle Class, full of hard-working Americans like you, and those that got you there -- TEACHERS!

Yea team!

Congrats to the teachers on their earned status.

Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 10, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Tenure? For K-12 education?

What a ridiculous concept.

Only in the People's Republik of Kalifornia.

Posted by Gary, a resident of The Greenhouse
on Apr 10, 2013 at 4:14 pm

"Only in the People's Republik of Kalifornia."

In which, oddly, you choose to live. Funny, that.

Welcome, comrade. Note you are welcome to move to the great minimum wage state of Texas at any time.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 10, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I'm going to guess Gary above is a guy who does NOT have kids in Palo Alto public schools.

As people who do have kids in Palo Alto public schools, we have seen a huge variation in tenured teachers. Some are truly magnificent and ought to make at least 50% more money than they do today. Many are good. A too-large number are retired-on-job, basically disengaged from the kids and doing the absolute minimum they can. One should not have been in the classroom at all, and the school struggled for years to get that person out.

Tenure for schoolteachers is a bit of an oddity. Schools are supposed to be first and foremost about the kids. But it's kind of a squishy argument how "infinite teacher job security now and forever" links to that. Maybe if all teachers really are superman/woman. But like every other sector of the wold, that's not the experience.

Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 10, 2013 at 5:27 pm

It would be informative if the PA Online took the time to actually explain the tenure granting process in PA.

Comments like " A 2005 bid by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to increase the probationary period to five years, California Proposition 74, was rejected by more than 55 percent of voters." have nothing to do with the honor being granted to these young teachers - just part of the PA Online Smear Program against the teachers and the school district.

Congratulations to the teachers!

Posted by Monica McK, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 10, 2013 at 6:21 pm

I detested a teacher in my son's school. Others loved her. Couldn't believe it.

THhe learning curve for teachers is steep, most don't make it the first five years in California - all that education and time down the drain.

Good luck to these fine teachers!

Taoody - if you detest California so much as to mock the name of where you live, why are you here?

Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 10, 2013 at 8:10 pm

You guys are hilarious.

Is that your way of saying "love it or leave it?"


Posted by village fool, a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2013 at 9:24 pm

The Office of Civil rights (OCR) found that a PAUSD student's civil rights were violated. I wonder if the teachers involved, or the teachers who knew of the bullying and chose to ignore were tenured?

Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 10, 2013 at 9:26 pm

I miss the days when celebrations like this didn't make headlines of a local paper.

Posted by PatrickD, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 11, 2013 at 12:38 am

I honestly can't even figure out why teachers want this. Merit pay works well for knowledge workers. Why unionize to protect the poor performers? If you're a good teacher shouldn't you expect to be paid higher than teachers who phone it in?

Posted by Tenure is Important, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2013 at 7:57 am

While I would be the first to agree that tenure is problematic in some instances, especially when a teacher has lost his/her effectiveness, it is nonetheless crucially important in protecting teacher's working conditions and job rights. Unions protect workers' rights, and guarantee safe and effective working conditions.

The local elite private schools, several of which cost the equivalent of a private 4-year college now, do not have unions or tenure; a parent has the choice of sending their child there as a privilege of being a free-market agent. However, doing so has its own, sometimes labyrinthine perils. Several of this area's most elite private schools have been run as small fiefdoms by administrators who have had no problem terminating the careers of highly respected, veteran teachers (many of whom, oddly enough, are also the highest paid) on flimsy grounds that have nothing to do with actual teacher evaluation, performance, or effectiveness, and instead are entirely personal and political. Or, if the teacher makes the mistake of running afoul of the wrong, extremely wealthy and powerful parent who has the ear of the school administration and is a sufficiently important donor, the teacher is out the door in a heartbeat. That would happen all the time in PAUSD if there was no union to protect the teachers. Money talks, ethics walk. Further, in the private schools the practiced use of actual California Standards of the Teaching Profession is entirely random and up to whoever designs the evaluation program. Those standards ARE used when a teacher is evaluated in the PAUSD. Private schools can hire whoever they want to, and teachers in private schools are not required to have actual teaching credentials.

The union may protect a few incompetent teachers who should retire or switch professions, but it also protects the vast majority of them from being treated like cattle by administrators who have been promoted to their own level of incompetence, in the process protecting the rights of the community's children to a good education. Sometimes the bigger picture can be important too.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 11, 2013 at 8:52 am

Wow, I see the name of my son's teacher last year who skipped almost a whole section of science due to poor time management. If parents knew she was in the process of tenure track, we could have done something. Since we didn't know it and the parent voluntary input was held at the end of year, we just let it go. We all know we won't see her anymore. Now I am sure she learned she didn't have do her job well and it was all OK for the rest of her career.
I think that's why real good teachers don't stay in school to teach.
They are not appreciated properly. I am not talking about occasional parents' gifts or praise.
Even though the rest of American public schools might work like this, we should be able to do better in Palo Alto. We can be the model for the nation.

Posted by anonyous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 11, 2013 at 10:45 am

Performance and/or tenure valuations are not like the private sector - they are a joke in the public school sector - and tenure is rushed in with minimum opportunity for anyone to intervene. A real union racket.
There are some teachers, I agree, who should receive 50% more (merit) pay than others (who perform acceptably well), and that is really saying something -- and there are some, yes some, who should be shown the door ASAP. The spectrum is broad. It is fully documented that it is extremely difficult anywhere to get a public schoolteacher fired and many children suffer owing to that. This is so different than what one experiences working in the private sector.
"all that education and time down the drain" (from a poster who bemoans the great investment in a teacher's education) -- err, I thought that Schools of Ed were the least respected and drew the lowest performing students. Maybe it's changed over the years, but this is the way it used to be.
Incidentally, anyone who is college educated put in the same time and money investment in their education. It is quite competitive out there in the private sector, all along one's career.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2013 at 10:52 am

Long past time to end tenure for public school teachers--particularly now that many of them are making more than $100k a year + a fairly impressive pension.

It's time to make ending tenure an issue at school board election time.

Posted by Heidi, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 11, 2013 at 11:25 am

Most of these new teachers have worked hard and spent a considerable amount of time and money to get where they are. They didn't create the mess and don't have a choice but to work in an environment that rewards all regardless of talent and hard work. There are slackers and opportunists in every level of every profession. I'd encourage you to remember that your comments will be read by these new teachers at a time when they should be proud and supported by the community. Property values in Palo Alto continue to benefit from the excellent teachers that create the schools that many others would love to attend, blemishes and all.

And for what it's worth……
"Tenure commonly refers to life tenure in a job and specifically to a senior academic's contractual right not to have his or her position terminated without just cause"………please take note that a tenured teacher can be terminated for cause.

Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 11, 2013 at 12:23 pm

"Most of these new teachers have worked hard and spent a considerable amount of time and money to get where they are."

So has everyone else with a career. Cry me a river.

Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 11, 2013 at 12:25 pm

There is no question that a few bad teachers benefit from tenure. However, for every bad teacher there are probably 20-30 bad parents who barrage teachers and school with unreasonable demands because "they do not think their child" is getting enough. I do not know if tenure is the right answer but something is needed to protect the many good teachers from the politics of abusive parents. I know many of these parents think they are doing the "right thing" but they lose all objectivity when their kids are involved.
I continue to challenge PA Online to give us a more complete description of how tenure is granted. I think on average the process takes at least three years in PA and it is a fairly detailed process.

Posted by palo alto parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm

alphonso - I think the tenure process in Palo Alto takes less than two years, teachers can be granted tenure toward the end of their second year teaching. I also don't believe that teachers can be allowed to teach for longer than that without granting them tenure, they either get tenure or are let go.

The idea of tenure is ridiculous (I actually think most unions have far outlived their usefulness). I would love to be able to reward our wonderful teachers and eliminate those who have "retired on the job" and especially those who bully students.

Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 11, 2013 at 1:05 pm

palo alto parent, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis

I know some teachers are getting tenure after 3-4 years. I do not want to argue with you - I would like to get the real information.

Posted by fire with un-just cause, a resident of Southgate
on Apr 11, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Just from one of the haters:

"Only in the People's Republik of Kalifornia."
"Is that your way of saying "love it or leave it?"
"So has everyone else with a career. Cry me a river."

Clearly your teachers never suggested you read that book, How to win friends and influence people...


Posted by parent parent, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 11, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Not every teacher gets tenure, and I don't understand the process. I personally know about 2 much-loved middle school teachers who were not given tenure when their tenure years were up, even though all the other parents I spoke with thought these were excellent teachers.

Posted by Tenure Info, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 11, 2013 at 7:15 pm


I have "inside knowledge" on how tenure works. Here it is in a nutshell:

A teacher is hired for a school year starting in August. If they are hired with soft money from a parcel tax, they begin on a temporary contract. If they are hired to fill in for a teacher on leave or a teacher on a reduced assignment, they are temporary. If enrollment is projected to decrease, they can be hired temporary.

Temporary teachers are not tied to the spot they're filling in for - its a district wide list. So if Counselor A at Gunn is a temp because there is an open spot at Gunn but also there is a Counselor B who is on maternity leave, Counselor A will remain temporary until Counselor B returns (at which point the newest hired counselor is let go) or stays on leave and/or resigns. There is an invisible line that separates temporary from probationary. Once you are above the line, you move from Temporary to Probationary. This may happen at the beginning of the year or usually in November. If a teacher was been temporary for more than 1 year, they will begin their second year under this situation as a Probationary 2.

Probationary 2 teachers get tenure (or are let go) as of March 15th of that year.

I know of teachers who stay Temp for a decade and then get tenure. I know of teachers who start Probationary 1 and have Tenure given after 16 months. Both are possible.

My Thoughts: If you are a good teacher, you don't need tenure. Superstar teachers can get a job anywhere. Tenure protects the bad teachers from being held accountable. I will say it also protects some decent teachers from bad administrators.

Hope that helps.

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