First, apologies for the irregularity of posts—end of the school year and all…
In today’s post, I want to give voice to the teachers who have been subjected to the matching system that the Providence Public School Department has implemented in lieu of placing teachers by seniority. Rather than give an analysis at this point, let me introduce you to three teachers at closed Providence schools. I spoke to two of them prior to last week’s match events, and one afterward. I am not disclosing their identities in order not to jeopardize their chances at retaining employment in the PPSD.
Apart from being fired, apart from this school closing, apart from finding out that we were fired when others weren’t fired, the whole process of trying to get whatever job back that you can has been so much more emotionally taxing than even the whole process that came before. Every single morning we come in and find out a whole new thing has happened. I’ll backtrack. So, we were supposed to have this match event where we could wander around the cafeteria and hopefully meet a principal. We were supposedly going to be able to write down which principal we’d like to meet and hopefully that principal would choose to meet with us and we’d have a mini-interview. That match event has been postponed … three times now. Even as bad as we knew it was going to be—full of nepotism, full of inaccuracies—at least it was going to be done and over with on the 8th. Then it was going to be done and over with on the 21st… You know, the dates have changed, the requirements have changed, the process has changed, at least three times every single week. So you walk into school, you think you’re going to have time to teach, and all you do is get hit in the face with an entirely new situation which is basically telling you: you’re not going to get anything you want.
Every teacher is so stressed out to the point that their bodies are giving out on them… I know of three people that have to go see doctors for various ailments. It is so unbelievably stressful. This is not on purpose—I don’t think they’re doing this on purpose. I think they’re doing this because, for one thing, they do not understand how important everything is to us and that we are people. They’re not remembering that we’re people, they’re treating us like dots, as they did with the children. And it seems that many of the people calling the shots are so inept that they really don’t understand what they’re doing and the problems, and so each time they get closer to the date, they’re like, “Oh my god, that won’t work for 370 teachers!” It’s just been such a disaster, and so much worse than it ever had to be.
I would just say that in my opinion, I don’t think this was done deliberately; it goes back to the idea that there was no plan for what they were doing, and that’s why so many people said, “give it a year to figure out what you should be doing, whether the schools should close. Because they didn’t really have a plan, and didn’t have a step-by-step vision of where it was going to go. And, I just heard the other day that the computer program they’re supposedly going to use to match us was set up for 55 teachers, and they’re going to be using it for 370—they don’t even know if it’s going to work. They never even tried it on the 55—they set it up for the 55 R’s in Pool. They never used it on the 55 R’s in pool, and now they’re going to use it on 370 teachers, but they don’t even know if the program works. So we’ll go to this match event, and the principals will do their thing, and we’ll do our thing and whatever, and then maybe a week later, they’ll have figured out who’s going where. But maybe not, because if this program doesn’t work, then where do we go from there?
And the requirements change every day—that’s been just unbelievable, what you need to upload, what you don’t need to upload, what you need to do, what you don’t need to do—it changes daily. Are you allowed to talk to a principal? Should you be running around getting interviews? I can’t even tell you how stressful it is. Then we heard yesterday from the union rep that came that, so for instance, myself and another teacher want to go to [school] and be [grade and subject] teachers. Well, we heard that the principal can’t choose both of us as number one, even though he’ll have two positions. He can’t choose his two number one people, he has to choose his number one and his number two. I don’t understand that. If we want to go there and he wants us, why can’t he choose us? None of it makes any sense. And that’s very stressful too—does that mean I should put in that I want to be his humber two, because maybe then [fellow teacher] can go as his number one and I can be his number two? That was the advice our union rep said to us—you might want to put your favorite as number two because you might have a better chance. We don’t know. None of it makes any sense. Is this any way to match the best teacher with the kids who need that teacher?
Initially I had not planned on attending the matching events, because, in my personal opinion, I felt that the process was so unfair and dividing, based on separating staff, causing turmoil, and unhealthy competition, where cooperative processes are so desperately needed. Personally, I wanted to make a statement, that I refused to compete for positions against my colleagues in this way. The rules and game was so unevenly set up, I felt I had to reject the process. After speaking with my reverend, his analogy of the person in the airplane helping him/herself first allowed him/her to help others ultimately changed my mind. After hours and hours of complications creating my resume in a format that could be uploaded, Spencer Dickenson agreed to help me upload it. I received conformation that it had been taken care of, and I was all set. That weekend I kept checking to see if it had been posted. which it hadn’t. Apparently, he had difficulty as well. I had to completely redo my resume for the dozenth time from Mac to PC this time as the Mac program was too new for his computer to process. The same thing happened with the PC resume. Luckily I emailed it to a colleague who saved it into an older version so it could be opened, but the whole resume had to be fixed as it was out of alignment. Anyway, that’s just my personal challenges, but I heard nightmare stories from each and every one of my colleagues, from simple insertion of dates, to irregular ranking errors, and many accounts of frozen and blocked systems. The PATS system is flawed and needs so many modifications.
So I went to each matching events, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Monday’s event was, from what I understand, done as a formality, as most positions were spoken for before any of the three events took place. It was initially supposed to be a “meet and briefly greet” opportunity, so that everyone would have an opportunity to introduce him/herself to and chat with principals about the school. From my understanding, this was NOT to be an interview. From chatting in our closing building, some teachers were granted conversations and interviews with principals before the matching event, and some weren’t. Some received call-backs and others didn’t. Teachers who were offered positions before the matching event went out for drinks in celebration of receiving their jobs on the evening of the matching event… another form of exclusion, which hurt a lot of feelings.
The past few weeks have divided the faculty so much and have caused a toxic work environment, not only for the faculty but for the children. It’s bad enough that we are all under extreme pressure due to the school’s closing, with packing and testing, and wrapping up a school year, and perhaps a career—but being pitted against our own colleagues by our administration, whose job is to build unity and happy learning environments, is highly insulting and degrading. I personally heard of administrators recommending some and not others. I even heard a conversation of the executive director of Middle Schools calling one teacher a piece of garbage, among other things. And those teachers who did take the time to attend the MATCH.COM and weren’t so “connected” were, in essence, shunned by many administrators who weren’t forthcoming about the positions that, although were still posted on PATS, were essentially unavailable and were spoken for already.
The gloating and inconsiderate way teachers with jobs have behaved has been so damaging to school morale and climate, very important ingredients for a school’s success. A colleague and I spent an hour and a half in one line, later to discover that the position available at that school was already promised to someone who didn’t even show up to the event because of a backroom deal guaranteeing the position if they put it as their # 1 rank. In total, I was only able to speak with 5 principals within a five hour time frame due to the lines and selfish lengths of time teachers spent “selling themselves”. These are just a couple of the inequitable examples of this completely unjust process. There ought to be laws against this kind of physical, mental, and professional abuse towards teachers. Isn’t this precisely why seniority was created?