The mistrust and animosity among educators regarding state Public Education Department reforms caused Brooks, in a recent email to teachers and staff, to take the unusual step of imploring them to not leave their jobs.
“Don’t quit. … Don’t quit on our kids, Don’t walk out on our kids. Don’t succumb to those who really don’t care about our kids,” he wrote.
Brooks said he got an earful after attending recent teacher/community meetings designed in part to help explain PED reforms to teachers and parents and get feedback from them.
At one meeting at Volcano Vista High School, Brooks said three teachers “actually stood up and said they were quitting and they just can’t do this anymore.”
At another meeting held at the request of the science department at La Cueva High School, he said teachers told him “this is not what we went into this for, and we are professional people who are being disrespected.”
Brooks said there is “horrifically bad morale throughout the district” and his email was to provide “moral support” to the teachers. He acknowledged that “75 percent of the morale problem is because of the PED reforms and 25 percent is because of the implementation of the new common core standards.”
By far, the biggest frustration he hears from teachers concerns the PED teacher evaluation system, he said. Under the new PED mandate, a large percentage of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on the test scores of that teacher’s students. Those test scores will also be used to determine a school’s overall rating.
APS submitted two alternative plans, but both were denied by state Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera, “so people do think it is being shoved down our throats,” Brooks said.
Teachers are also telling Brooks they object to a new PED policy of rating a teacher as ineffective if that teacher takes 10 days or more personal leave during a school year. They worry they may be judged ineffective if they have to take time out for maternity leave, or if they get sick, injured or have a family emergency.
Not so, said PED spokesman Larry Behrens. There are special dispensations given to teachers in the event of catastrophic injury, family medical leave, long-term illness, maternity leave and other circumstances, none of which count toward the 10-day rule or affect a teacher’s evaluation.