Be True to Your School?

28 December 2009

Members of the Minneapolis Board of Education,

I live in Minneapolis Park Board District 6, as do some of the Board members. I attend caucuses and I support candidates who are trustworthy and work for the people of this city where I have lived for 33 years and taught for 28. I have dedicated my life to the young people of this city. In the past few years, I have been sadly disappointed in the decisions of the Minneapolis School Board to ignore promises it has made to its citizens and its employees. Has this board taken its lead from the Wall Street scammers, to promise great things it never intended to honor? How does this help the children? What is your word worth?

I struggle every day to improve the chances and lives of some of the city’s most neglected students at Edison High School. Mine are students who need hours of individual help and small group, interactive time to get caught up with their age-mates elsewhere. Yet day after day, I lose the time to meet individually with students or parents, because I am in meetings intended to improve my performance. The meetings are keeping me from performing at all. And while my performance scores are more than proficient, I am denied the pay increases my good work was contracted to earn through TAP and ATPPS, pay structures for which the district receives millions of additional state dollars.

“The School Board now refuses to pay teachers what was rightfully earned through traditional means as well as the through the ATPPS MOA and supported through the continuing contract language in Article I, Section C.1 of the MFT 2007-09 Teachers Contract which states ‘This Agreement shall remain in full force and effect. . . until a new agreement is reached,’”  states a recent teachers’ union petition.  Business as usual? Promises never meant?

A similar conflict between teachers’ learning and students’ learning surrounds the time spent learning AVID—the same skills but with different names, the adoption of which brings more money to the school. This conflict hobbles us with the days we are pulled out of class to learn the very same skills again in IB training, and again in IFL Disciplinary Literacy training. Small wonder the students leave. They see what’s happening. For many whole days, students are deprived of their teachers. Their education suffers because the District pays millions of dollars to hire reserve teachers, while “training” the regular teachers to be better educators in a vacated school building.

Students do not learn in the absence of their regular teachers. Meetings, training and testing pull me away from my students more than ten percent of the time. MPS policy is depriving its students by “improving” its teachers.

Yet the focused training teachers get on their own, often at their own expense, that meets the real and everyday needs of teaching the students in their rooms –students who may be the first in their family to graduate high school, students who are taking college prep classes with three and four years of English experience—this training that we know helps goes unrewarded, in fact uncompensated.

If you see no need to compensate me for improvement, I see no need to improve, especially since the MPS model of improvement hinders our teaching and our students learning. Are your interests politics and public finance, or Minneapolis children and their education?

Break with the past; be true to your word.

Jay Ritterson
Edison High School, English Dept.
Minneapolis, Minnesota

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About Jay C Ritterson
If I say nothing, it might be that I have nothing to say.

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