Today I wrote a story about dozens of Filipino teachers and a room packed to the brim with members of the Filipino community who showed up to confront the Baltimore City school board Tuesday night, alleging that principals broke several protocols in deciding not to renew contracts for this year.
Baltimore Teachers Union officials said that teachers (Filipino and not) were being "treated like trash," districtwide by school leaders who arbitrarily were able to decide whether to renew teachers contracts, and asked for school board to intervene and review and re-review individual cases of dismissals. The teachers, union officials said, were at the mercy of personalities rather than the proper process. One-by-one teachers, Filipino and not, offered testimony that ranged from heated to heartbreaking.
The school system praised its cohort of Filipino teachers, saying they were among the best in the system. Schools CEO Andres Alonso said he took the allegations seriously, and there would be consequences if the process of determining contract renewals was not being properly followed by principals.
Neil Duke, the school board president, was visibly moved by the testimonies. And while he's a stickler for protocols (which didn't allow him to address individual personnel concerns), he asked the entire Filipino cohort to stand and engaged the audience in thunderous applause for their courage.
I followed up today to see how whether school officials would conduct an investigation into the claims and here is the response from the schools CEO:
"We will look at every case, and make sure that nothing inappropriate was done in any case.
All cases come to me for review when they are appealed. None have come to me yet. The discussion last night was very inappropriate, even if framed generally, because there are pending cases, including cases that might have involved people who were providing testimony. It was premature in terms of our protocols, since the appeal process has not ended, and individual personnel matters should never be part of board public testimony, period.
There are two levels of review for me in every personnel case. One level of review is whether the rules were followed. If the rules were followed, then the presumption is that the principal acted within his or her rights in non renewing a teacher. The rules are very different (and far more liberal) for non renewing probationary teachers (teachers in the first two years of their teaching career) than for tenured teachers. There is no requirement that the probationary teacher had to be evaluated as unsatisfactory, as in the case of tenured teachers. And we cannot create procedural rights for some teachers and not for others, where there are none.
But the other level of review is whether the process was done in the right spirit, independently of the rules. That requires a deeper look at what was done, and is an accountability conversation with school leaders.
As I stated yesterday, I take this very seriously. And as I also said yesterday, the decisions need to be made on the basis of what is right for kids, as always."