City Life: Teachers are right to be mad

Teachers are not supposed to protest.

They're not supposed to complain or become frustrated or get upset in any way.

And they are certainly not supposed to cast a vote of "no confidence" in the school superintendent ("Teachers union denounces Hubbard," Nov. 4).

Teachers are supposed to be docile employees, happy to be in their noble profession and perfectly satisfied being paid in the smiles of the children they educate.

Many teachers long ago gave up any notion of trying to inspire their charges. Instead, they navigate turbulent administrative waters, trying to teach far too much in far too little time.

These rules have them paying far more attention to the short-term goal of grades and test scores instead of the more beneficial, long-term goal of creating lifelong learners out of the kids who pass through their doors each semester.

Today's educator hears the nation talk about the importance of education and the value of our teachers, but then sees us paying millions to someone who can hit a baseball one time out of four at-bats, or throw a football 30 yards to land on a dime in the end zone.

They hear the talk, and then see the budget cuts.

At some point, the tipping point was bound to be reached. The teachers in Wisconsin reached their limit last February and forced the closure of Milwaukee Public Schools by walking out on their jobs. About 600 teachers called in sick to attend demonstrations, forcing the shutdown of more than 200 schools.

In Newport-Mesa, the no-confidence vote last week was not the tipping point, but a signal that teachers are moving closer to it.

Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers President Kimberly Claytor said that the vote was strictly a response to what many teachers see as unequal treatment on behalf of the superintendent.

"The vote was not about Supt. [Jeffrey] Hubbard's guilt or innocence [on his criminal charges]," she said. "We want [Hubbard] to be treated fairly according to the rules of due process."

So what was the vote all about? It started with the school board approving Hubbard's paid leave last January, a move she said would have been out of the question for most issues involving teacher infractions.

"There is an inequity as to how the rules are enforced," she said. "His paid leave is a distraction, an inequity, and it has a demoralizing impact."

It's easy to understand the position of the teachers who voted as there is a history of preferential treatment of school executives dating back at least 10 years.

In 2001, Trustee Jim Ferryman was arrested on a misdemeanor drunken driving charge to which he later pleaded guilty. All the trustees except Wendy Leece spurned calls for his resignation. Judy Franco, David Brooks, Dana Black and Martha Fluor are still on the board of education.

The inequality is heightened by the school board's reaction to Hubbard's outrageous emails, the ones that contained vulgar references and were sent to women, and some of those were sent after he became superintendent at Newport-Mesa. While these emails are not unlawful, they are unbecoming of the person in the top spot in our school system.

"Our teachers get that these were inappropriate," Claytor said.

But instead of denouncing Hubbard, the emails were dismissed as of little or no consequence.

But wait, there's more. In 2006, Hubbard agreed to a four-year term of office with a contract that was to have expired June 30, 2010. But instead of allowing the contract to expire in four years and undertaking a thorough performance review in preparation for renewal, Hubbard's contract has been renewed annually, most recently on Aug. 10, 2010. His contract now expires June 30, 2014. Nice.

The mistake is believing that the recent vote of no confidence is an isolated matter when it is actually part of a national movement: Teachers are mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore.

Frankly, I don't blame them. I just wonder what took them so long.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to smi161@aol.com.

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