Blade Editor David Kushma's Sept. 19 op-ed column, “Tough choices, for TPS and voters,” among other things listed teacher evaluation as something that Toledo Public Schools must do better. He probably doesn't know that our evaluation model for teachers is widely copied throughout the nation, because the traditional principal evaluations seldom result in dismissal or positive results.
The Toledo Plan, as it is known, has been the subject of three Aspen Institute seminars, numerous national conferences. It has been covered by NBC Nightly News, a PBS special, and most national newspapers, and written about in a dozen books or more. Nearly 400 teachers are no longer teaching in Toledo schools because they failed to meet reasonable performance criteria.
That isn't the only thing of which Mr. Kushma is unaware. TPS's management union has opposed the Toledo Plan because there is the perception that the peer evaluation model interferes with the principal's authority.
It is the authority hang-up that is the biggest barrier to improving our schools and the achievement of TPS students. The management union is stuck on a governance system that has failed in business and continues to fail in our nation's schools.
Case in point: A few years ago, my union offered to take over a high-poverty neighborhood school and be responsible for student achievement. The management union blocked it because in our proposal the traditional principal role would have changed. The school continues among the state's lowest ratings for student achievement.
The real barrier we face is a management and some school board members who are hopelessly wedded to the idea that schools can't improve unless there is a principal in charge who can act like a foreman in a 1950s auto plant. We made the greatest gains in student achievement when we had a chief academic officer who worked closely with TFT and teachers.
Our current board president didn't even give this individual the courtesy of an interview for superintendent of schools because “he is viewed as too close to Francine Lawrence.”
It isn't just personalities, however. The problem is that in Toledo there is a basic difference about the role of teachers in instructional decisions. We have a positive national reputation among reformers, critics, and the U.S. Department of Education. What we need is management that isn't afraid to work with us.
Maybe the Birmingham story, where the principal and teachers work together as a team and leave titles for others to be concerned about, will be a lesson that even the most entrenched and backward looking can understand.
Toledo Federation of Teachers
Schools give little accountability
I agree with David Kushma's column. I ask myself the same questions about the school districts in and around Toledo.
It's incredible to me how there can be school boards with educators leading all of them. Isn't that a conflict of interest? There seems to be no accountability in any of our school districts. It appears the only way to get their attention is simply to not give them funds to spend recklessly.
Why can't school systems provide their balance sheets to The Blade, so taxpayers can make intelligent decisions based upon that information, rather than have them simply threaten us: “If we don't get the money we will cut sports”?
The U.S. public education system gets a pass on everything from the politicians because it is such a political football: “Oh my goodness, we can't let the taxpayers see that we don't want to fund education. We won't be voted in next term.” It's as simple as that.
Sales tax for schools is fairer
Confrontation between teachers and administrators is incomprehensible. We are on the same side — developing our greatest resource, our children.
Schools are big business. As the cost of gasoline, heating oil, office supplies, and, yes, labor increases, they must increase revenues or cut costs, as all businesses do. They cannot increase revenues as other businesses do by passing cost increases along to customers by raising prices. Instead, they must ask property owners for more money.
Funding schools with property taxes is nonsensical. A large number of families with school-age children rent and pay no property taxes, while a large number of people who pay property taxes — in fact, who pay the bulk of those taxes — no longer have children in the system.
A more equitable solution would be to raise sales taxes to resolve the budget crisis. Then, families with many school-age children who buy more food, clothing, and other goods and services would provide the system more revenue, while smaller families that buy less would provide less.
The cost of the services provided by schools would be more equitably distributed among those who use those services.
New take on buying foreign
Wouldn't it be ironic if union laborers for Chrysler would support the company's goal to expand its global sales (“Jeep gearing for global sales climb,” Sept. 21)?
Don't unions encourage us not to buy foreign to protect American jobs? On one hand, unionized auto workers criticize global markets and capitalism. On the other hand — which profits them — they encourage it.
They had better hope foreign drivers are more open-minded about buying U.S. cars shipped to their markets and won't mimic the American union motto: “Out of a job yet? Keep buying foreign.”
Federal spending is out of control
The writer of the Sept. 20 letter “Focus on substance, not style,” should Google “examples of wasteful spending” to see how the federal government wastes our tax dollars.
We would be better off if our money stayed in our district, where we decide where and how to spend it.
The U.S. National Debt Clock shows we have a $13.5 trillion debt; $17 billion of that is earmarks for this year alone. We owe more than $201 billion in interest this year.
How do we get this under control?
Thank election for graffiti cleanup
Gang graffiti that's been on the boarded-up 7-Eleven store at Secor and Laskey roads for more than a year was cleaned up. Then a campaign sign went up on the corner of the property.
It takes an election to get anyone to do anything about our declining neighborhoods.
Truckers, thanks for the job you do
This week is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. Most Americans don't recognize the vital role the trucking industry plays in our lives.
There are 3 million tractor-trailers on U.S. highways driven by more than 3.4 million truck drivers, including me. In 2008, the trucking industry hauled 10.2 billion tons of freight, nearly 70 percent of the total U.S. freight tonnage.
Every commodity Americans use is delivered by a truck driver. More than 80 percent of our communities are serviced exclusively by trucks. We like to think of ourselves as the backbone of our nation's economy.
Truck drivers do our job with pride because we know that our efforts are an essential part of the American way of life. We don't need a special week, but it sure is nice to hear someone say “thanks” for a job well done.