Georgia/Atlanta Federation of Teachers union president not happy about the selection of Carstarphen as next APS superintendent – read “ignored again”


The president of the Georgia and Atlanta Federation of Teachers union Verdaillia Turner is not happy about the process APS followed to select Meria Carstarphen as the next superintendent for APS.

The bottom line appears to be that she and her organization were once again – simply ignored.

WSBTV reports (see here) on Turner’s concerns – direct quotes from the article are in italics.

The Georgia Federation of Teachers president says she has major concerns about the way the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent search is being conducted. Verdaillia Turner is convinced there is an agenda behind their final candidate. “We were insulted and the next word that came to mind: fixed,” Turner said.

Comment – This perspective is interesting, given that Ms. Turner was a representative on the Superintendent Search Committee (see here), but resigned prior to the selection being announced. If her concerns were so valid, why did she leave the Search Committee? It should also be noted the position on the Committee Ms. Turner left, was subsequently filled by the Atlanta Teacher of the Year. Additionally, Board member Byron Amos – who was endorsed by the AFT in the recent election – voted on the selection of Carstarphen (see more on this below).

And the terms ‘agenda’ and ‘fixed’ are just simply strange. Take a look at the original Committee composition here and incorporate the knowledge that the full Board – which included six newly elected members – will have to ratify Carstarphen’s appointment on April 14. In addition, the Search Committee held an extensive number of community meetings to get input on the characteristics desired in the next superintendent (see here).

The only conclusion I can reach is that the announced candidate was not Turner’s pick. So, sour grapes.

“There were 400-something people that applied and you give us one finalist? You are insulting my intelligence and the intelligence of the citizens of this city,” Turner said.  

Comment – If she had wanted her intelligence to be validated, then she would have remained on the Search Committee to its final conclusion.

I will also add that it is very problematic to announce more than one candidate at a time. It is my understanding that the selection process came down to four candidates – all of whom have current high-profile positions – and publicizing that these candidates are interested in another position places them in a very awkward position with their current employer.

“We are looking into her background right now. Everything is happening real fast,” Turner said.  

Comment – We are nearly a week out from the announcement – other than veiled complaints, where is their statement of concerns regarding Carstarphen? Finding union complaints is very easy – the head of the teachers union in Austin was not a fan of Carstarphen (see here and here)

Turner said she has several concerns with this potential hire. “We think many people will lose their jobs under new evaluations that are constantly enacted,” Turner said.

Comment – So her concerns are based on what might happen in the future regarding teacher evaluations? And which are constantly being enacted? It would be nice to hear what specific facts she is pointing to in Carstarphen’s record to support her future ‘concerns’.

My sense is that Ms. Turner is simply upset that she and her organization are being ignored as their input is consistently off –base.

Remember that voters soundly rejected her organizations endorsements for Board of Education candidates this past November – the seven endorsed candidates in contested races all lost by overwhelming margins. Their one ‘victory’ was their endorsement of Board member Byron Amos – who ran unopposed.

As further background on teacher unions in Georgia, follow the link Georgia is a “right-to-work” state, meaning unions and businesses cannot force employees to join or financially support a union. The Georgia Legislature passed such guidelines in 1947 for a good overview.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]

5 Responses to Georgia/Atlanta Federation of Teachers union president not happy about the selection of Carstarphen as next APS superintendent – read “ignored again”

  1. Beverly Fraud says:

    Some thoughts come to mind when reading this, perhaps looking at this through a different paradigm will help:

    Mrs Turner appears to be the only teacher on the committee, with recent classroom experience, assuming she still is a teacher.

    As such, the teacher representation (for lack of a better term) is equal to the student representation, as there is one student council member.

    Think about the message this sends to teachers: “We feel your input is no more important than that of a teenager.”

    Is this not a legitimate way to view this? And is that the message we want to be sending to teachers, as far as how “valued as stakeholders” they should feel?

    Now as far as the student council rep, can we be honest enough to admit that is for show? Are we going to pretend that his voice carried equal weight of that of Anne Wilson Cramer or Duriya Farooqui?

    Therefore, is it not legitimate for Turner to think she was placed on there as a “token” representative, and the only way should could get her “voice heard” as it were, was to resign?

    As far as the evaluations, I think Turner, and most of the teacher advocacy groups have done a very poor job of articulating concerns. Any Google search will point out the many pitfalls of the VAM of evaluation. But let’s give you an example of how completely ridiculous they can be. Take the 11th grade social studies teacher. She is expected to “move” the children from where they were in 10th grade. But here is the rub; the 10th grade teacher teaches American History, the 11th grade teacher teaches economics, two COMPLETELY different courses of study.

    See the problem? And that’s even IF you consider VAMs to be flawless, which statisticians decidedly do not.

    The other issue Turner has failed to articulate; the misuse of the evaluation instrument as a means of administrative retaliation. Turner needs to do a much better job articulating that this is basically part and parcel of the APS corporate culture.

    Again, this isn’t Carstarphen’s fault, but it IS the fault of a search committee if they didn’t make this a PRIMARY line of questioning for her, as far as how she will address this (especially considering she appears to want to give free reign to principals) Will there be specific measures, with real teeth, put in place to protect teachers from administrative retaliation when they advocate for ethics and integrity in the education of APS children? If not, you can sum up the entirety of APS in one simple question:

    Other than THAT how was the play Mrs. Lincoln? (Yes it’s THAT important, because, as the cheating scandal showed, it’s THAT big a problem.)

    Finally, even though it’s a disparate group, the search committee all seems to be cut from the same cloth as it were, in that, to varying degrees, they buy into the current educational paradigms. Would have been nice to see some different viewpoints represented. Ed Johnson, who has been a noted advocate for education change would have been one. Ralph Long, who showed CONSIDERABLE political courage by calling for Bev Hall’s resignation when Kasim Reed, Sam Williams and the “bidness” community were trying to save her, would have been another.

    Again, look at the rest of the members; did ANY of them, have the courage to call for Hall’s resignation? If not, is it not legitimate to ask if perhaps the committee would have been well served by having some more people with the courage to “lay it on the line” as it were for the betterment of our students?

    I think that type of courageous integrity would have served this committee well. And when one sees the lack of that type of view, that different paradigm being represented, when one sees that teenagers were given the SAME voice as teachers, is it that far out of left field for Turner to suggest there was an “agenda”?

    • Without going into everything you mentioned I do believe it is important to correct the record on some of the items you included in your comment.

      “Mrs Turner appears to be the only teacher on the committee, with recent classroom experience, assuming she still is a teacher.” – I do not believe Ms. Turner was ever a teacher. However, four of the current Board members – who have the final say in the selection – are former teachers.

      “As such, the teacher representation (for lack of a better term) is equal to the student representation, as there is one student council member. Think about the message this sends to teachers: “We feel your input is no more important than that of a teenager.” – See comment above.

      “Therefore, is it not legitimate for Turner to think she was placed on there as a “token” representative, and the only way should could get her “voice heard” as it were, was to resign? – This is the first time I have ever heard the head of a teacher’s union being considered a “token”. Hopefully her advocacy for teachers represents more than that. Also, Ms. Turner resigned – and in a huff I am told – immediately following the election in which, all the candidates she and her organization supported, lost by wide margins. I find this strange – she made no public comment then – but only now wants to have her voice heard? Don’t you think her voice would have been heard – and with more impact – if she had stayed on the Committee? I also found it very strange that the one individual tasked with representing teachers decided to quit. If anyone needs to be taken to task – it is Ms. Turner.

      “… considering she [Carstarphen] appears to want to give free reign to principals” – I think the following quotes from Carstarphen made and posted in the blog) counter your contention.

      “I love my principals and they know that I will support them, but they also know that I will not support them blindly. I am fair and honest and they can be fair and honest with me.”

      “And the principals should be evaluated regularly, at least every year, and if improvements need to be made, they can be documented and they can either get better or decide that they want to move on into another profession.”

      I will also add that the issue of principal autonomy was front and center during the recent elections – and nearly every candidate – and all the ones that were elected, made this a major plank of their campaigns. And most of them discussed it in terms of principal authority, responsibility and accountability.

      Bob

  2. Beverly Fraud says:

    Something of note when considering that Carstarphen is being pushed in part due to “grad rates are at an all time high in AISD” and higher than APS grad rates.

    PoliticFact rates the statement as true, but notes numerous factors that could be the reason, not by definition anything Carstarphen specifically did. In fact PoliticFact specifically notes:

    “But Austin still has the lowest graduation rate among the state’s large urban districts for economically disadvantaged students, at 78.9 percent.”

    Again, this may not be necessarily her fault, much like the rising rates may not be primary to her credit.

    Lesson learned in our collective (seemingly) PR push to praise her:

    Correlation is NOT proof of causality.

    Agreed?

    • Agree we need to look further into the reasons grad rates increased and see if there are specific policies or programs that she initiated that impacted the numbers. I intend to post on this after completing the post on yesterday’s Budget Committee meeting.

  3. Beverly Fraud says:

    Bob,

    In regards to the following:

    “I do not believe Ms. Turner was ever a teacher. However, four of the current Board members – who have the final say in the selection – are former teachers.”

    Again, I would say the “former teachers” have most likely all evolved into “system people” and as such don’t really have a pulse on the day to day life of the classroom teacher. It’s not unlike the generals who were soldiers years ago, only to become tone deaf to the day to day realities of war on the ground now; and we have seen that played out all too often in the years since 9/11.

    As far as Turner, I am certainly not in a position to defend her, based on what you have shared, except to say if she was the only representative of the current teachers’ point of view, would that in and of itself not be the epitome of a “token” representative?

    In contrast, if the committee truly wanted ‘teacher input’ why not have four current teachers, or even four recently retired, or about to retire teachers (who could speak without fear of retaliation)

    If there were four of THAT type of teacher on the committee, I would bet dollars to doughnuts there would have been more questions about discipline and about the misuse of the evaluation instrument.

    Again, we can talk about budgets and policy and “systemic initiatives” and the like but the war is won in the trenches-in the classroom.

    And if the rank and file classroom teacher isn’t supported in discipline, in an environment free from retaliation, EVERY other concern is rooted in one simple question:

    Other than THAT how is the play Mrs. Lincoln?

    Again, what this process seems to be missing is “buy in” from current teachers, and without that, even if Carstarphen has good intentions, her effectiveness will be compromised. Do we want teachers who begrudgingly “go along to get along” with Carstarphen, doing the bare minimum not to get fired, or teachers who actively buy in to what she is doing?

    If teachers do not perceive they have a voice, you will get the former, not the latter, something I’m not sure people on the committee fully understand, for if they did, the very makeup of the committee would have reflected that understanding.

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