‘Uninformed’ Columnist Misses the Mark on Both Examples about Teachers

Dear Editor,
In Cynthia Walker’s latest column,

Three Yes, Three No, and Two Props to Ponder,

she offers her opinions as to which propositions on the November
ballot she favors and which she does not. For the time being, I
would like to focus on Proposition 74.
Dear Editor,

In Cynthia Walker’s latest column, “Three Yes, Three No, and Two Props to Ponder,” she offers her opinions as to which propositions on the November ballot she favors and which she does not. For the time being, I would like to focus on Proposition 74.

Mrs. Walker is clearly in favor of extending the probationary period for teachers from two years to five and cites three examples to bolster her case. As the president of the Gilroy Teachers Association, I am well acquainted with these cases, but since Mrs. Walker has used the names of only two teachers, I will limit my references to those.

In one example, Ms. Walker uses a situation from last year that involved the use of inappropriate supplementary reading material. Mrs. Walker’s reason for voting in favor of Proposition 74 is that “it would only take another bad performance review” to fire such a teacher.

First of all, Mrs. Walker does not have access to that teacher’s personnel files, so she has no idea what the final evaluation says. Secondly, it is highly unlikely that the teacher in question would do anything to warrant an unsatisfactory evaluation this year.

Furthermore, if by passing Proposition 74 Mrs. Walker believes that it will be easier to fire permanent teachers, she is mistaken. A careful reading of the text of the proposition reveals that it would take two consecutive unsatisfactory evaluations in order for the local school board to dismiss the teacher. What if the teacher receives an unsatisfactory in year one, but a satisfactory in year two? The process begins again. This is why the California Schools Boards Association has taken a position of NO on Proposition 74.

In another example, Mrs. Walker assumes that if a certain principal had just had more time to get to know a teacher, he never would have dismissed her. There is absolutely no evidence to indicate this would have happened. One of the main reasons this particular teacher was dismissed was because she was more outspoken than the administration liked. The administration had more than ample evidence of her teaching ability, but it made no difference.

In closing, I would like to draw attention to one more item. In her column, Mrs. Walker characterized me as the “local teachers’ union hack.” I did some research on the term “hack,” and was unable to determine with any certainty which definition Mrs. Walker was using. The only one I could find with which I identified, given the endless amount of paperwork inherent in this position, was “one who works hard at boring tasks.” Somehow, I don’t think that is what Mrs. Walker had in mind.

Regardless of what Mrs. Walker thinks of me or my temporary position, (I am an 8th grade science teacher on leave and get paid my regular salary), hopefully, there are enough voters who have the time to read the propositions for themselves instead of relying on the uninformed opinions of others.

Michelle Nelson,

President, Gilroy Teachers Association

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