In response to the post “A Fatal Flaw,” and the subsequent comments, a reader writes:
“I agree with Cain totally. Keep this in mind: It is possible you have done your part. You have coached. You have sent many memos. You have put the teacher on a growth plan. You have coached after the growth plan and documented that, too. Still, your superintendent is weak and wonders if you have done enough. In this situation, it is handy to remind him or her that you were obligated to do NOTHING, but chose to be the Shepherd, yet your efforts failed.
Some principals and superintendents have the belief that the district has an extreme burden of proof on a non-renewal. There is no extreme burden of proof, just a reasonable burden of proof, in the light of due process. I know superintendents who tell principals they can’t put teachers on a growth plan because it will cause problems. This is an extreme. Dismissing teachers without giving them notice and opportunity is also extreme. Knowing your legal obligation to teachers may give you the ability to sway your superintendent, regardless if he or she is weak or extreme.”
When discussions lead towards retaining or firing staff, people start to get nervous.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Teachers get nervous because they know that they represent the class of employee that is most at risk and most teachers really don’t understand how they are being assessed and the weight of the various evaluation criteria. This is one reason why veteran teachers gravitate towards upper ability classes. If evaluation criteria are unclear, upper level classrooms represent a relative safe haven.
Administrators get nervous because disciplining and firing staff is a grueling activity. Knowing in advance of the documentation requirements, difficult conversations, and collateral damage actually makes the process more difficult, not less so.
Not that disciplining and firing staff every gets easy; however, there are ways to make the process fairer. First, it need to be crystal clear what is expected of staff, and how that will be determined. If leadership cannot or will not do that, shame on leadership.
Second, those who have worked with me know that I believe (from a performance standpoint) that the only unforgivable sin is “not being coachable.” If a staff member is making an honest effort to improve his or her craft, he or she gets time and support. If he or she is not making the effort, then the clock starts ticking.
Finally, just like you do, your staff knows who is pulling their weight and who is not. The fairest thing you can do to support your staff is not make those who are pulling their weight work next to those who do not. Your job as a leader is to make the job of your hard working, good teachers easier; by surrounding them with other hard working, good teachers.
Think. Work. Achieve.