Tenure-bonus plan ‘potentially divisive and harmful’

Dec. 23, 2013 @ 11:18 AM

The teachers of Club Boulevard Humanities Magnet School are committed to developing all of our students into thoughtful and responsible life-long learners. 

We devote our full intellectual abilities to providing high quality instruction that not only builds students’ intellect, but their character as well.  We seek to maintain positive relationships with all the families at our school, and we recognize the intrinsic worth of every student and every family. We are colleagues and collaborators working together to help our students succeed, and we believe, without any doubt or hesitation, that giving tenure bonuses to 25 percent of our faculty is 100 percent misguided.

The student population at Club Boulevard is incredibly diverse. Our students -- like the students at all schools -- benefit from the diverse teaching styles and skills that our faculty possesses. Some students gain most from the after-school tutoring sessions offered by a classroom teacher; some blossom through singing in the school chorus; some depend upon small group instruction with resource teachers. Which of these teachers should be rewarded for being “the best”?

We believe that the improvement of teacher quality and of public schools can only come through meaningful support for all teachers, not through divisive and inconsequential “honors” for a few. 

The teachers at Club Boulevard hope to work with Durham Public Schools and with our colleagues around the state to ensure the ongoing improvement of our common educational goals and standards. We know that competing with each other for a few hundred dollars of funds will not improve anything.

In some venues, competition can be an effective motivator, but we feel strongly that schools should not be one of those venues.  Competition among faculty members is not likely to push teachers to work harder or work smarter.  Instead, competition could push teachers to care less about the educational outcomes within their communities or within their schools and more about the outcomes just within their own classrooms.  Right now, our faculty cares deeply about the success of all our students.  We don’t want that level of care to be jeopardized because teachers are being pitted against one another.

At Club Boulevard, our teachers are united in the belief that collaboration among colleagues provides the best avenue to strengthen our school (and all schools).  The statute requiring the dispersal of tenure bonus funds to only the top 25 percent of teachers is unclear in its criteria for identification and unhelpful towards the goal of raising student achievement.

Our hope is that this school board will be an entity of trailblazing advocacy for teachers and public schools and that it will work to find a creative and effective way to challenge this potentially divisive and harmful statute.

This letter was endorsed by all of the school’s teachers who are eligible to receive tenure bonuses except one. All have signed a pledge to turn down the tenure bonuses except for the teacher who did not endorse the letter.

Alexa Goff is a kindergarten teacher at Club Boulevard Humanities Magnet School.