“For the first time in 10 years, I cannot call myself a teacher.”

Cobb parents, students and teachers appealed to the board of education last night for a reconsideration of the many cuts to staff and programs. Here is the statement of David Platt, one of the Wheeler High science and magnet teachers whose termination has inspired students letters and protests. Platt, who has a University of Michigan master’s degree in science and engineering, aerospace engineering, taught Post AP Aerospace and Robotics. (He is also on of the creators of  a parody  Georgia High School Graduation Test that I posted in March.)

Platt can speak for himself as his statement indicates, but I still can’t believe that in view of all the rhetoric in this state about the need to bolster STEM – science, technology, engineering and math — education that any county, least of all Cobb, is shedding magnet science teachers. I can’t count how many times I have heard state leaders say the future belongs to the STEM graduates and that Georgia has to produce more science and math expertise to complete.

Can someone explain this insanity to me?

Here is his statement:

Ten years ago I became a teacher.  Not because I had to, certainly not for the money, not for the hours, not for the respect and not for the glory.  I became a teacher because it is who I am.  Two years ago, you, the Cobb County School District, hired me to educate your children.  You trusted me to advocate for your most precious resource.  You asked me to run a robotics team for no pay, you asked me to develop new curriculums for nothing, other than the fact it is who I am.

I did all of that gladly and passionately, and more.  One year ago, almost to the day, I stood in this exact spot, before all of you and asked you to please find alternate sources of revenue and other ways to fix the budget problems without putting the onus on the backs of the teachers.
Four months ago, I wrote to all of you and asked once again could you find a way to raise revenue and make strategic cuts so that it was not ultimately the students who would be asked to pay for the solution.  You asked me for suggestions, so I spent countless hours of my limited free time researching possible solutions and meeting with others to come up with intelligent ideas that could be implemented, and I sent those along to all of you, as well as representatives at the state level.

Two months ago, I stood before you in the Campbell High School Auditorium, and asked you to please consider those suggestions, and to not compromise the level of education in this county.

Today, I stand before you once again, and this time, for the first time in 10 years, I cannot call myself a teacher.  I am not a position, I am a person, and I am unemployed, simply because despite all that I have done and been able to accomplish with my peers and students these past two years, I was deemed part of the problem, and not part of the solution.

Simply because since I have not worked in Cobb County long enough, I am a victim of a so called “Performance Based” reduction in force, not because of my performance, but in spite of it, because I did all that you asked me to do, and more.

Today, my students are in tears, my peers stunned and my corporate and university partners aghast.  Tomorrow I will find a job.  I will teach somewhere, for it is who I am. Tomorrow my students will continue their summer break and heal their wounds.

Tomorrow though, the budget problem will be as bad as it is right now.  Tomorrow the stimulus money will disappear.  Tomorrow the teachers will no longer tolerate furlough days.  Tomorrow, the Cobb County property appraiser is going to reduce the assessed values of homes throughout the county.

Tomorrow, the budget for next year will already be looking at a $75 million deficit, before we even finish carving up this year.  There are better solutions than butchering the work force and annihilating the curriculum.  The ideas are out there.  I have shared mine with you, and on the over 1,700 pages of feedback from the online survey, there are countless other well thought out, intelligent, implementable ideas.  There is plenty of blame to go around, but now is not the time for that. Now is the time for solutions.

Today you have a chance to do something.  You have an opportunity to listen to your constituents crying out to stop the bleeding.  You have a chance to put aside ideological differences and do what is right for the students and community of Cobb County.  The problem is fixable.  It may not be easy, and it may not be in your best interests politically, but it can be done right, and it needs to start now.

Thirteen days ago, my students at Wheeler High School reminded me why I teach, and of who I am, and of how proud I am to call myself a teacher.  They stood 500 strong, and simply asked that they be heard, that they have a voice in their own education, that they be given the right to the highest level of education that they deserve, and to not suffer for a problem that they had no hand in creating.

Today, if you do not listen to me, please listen to them.

Thank you for your time.

133 comments Add your comment

KAW

May 28th, 2010
9:26 am

Mr. Platt — thank you for saying what needs to be said! I agree with you. The Board has done nothing to help solve this problem for the future. I am so sorry that you lost your job. I know many other great teachers in Cobb that have lost their jobs and it breaks my heart. What the Board fails to realize that you and all the other teachers are the heart and soul of the district. You are what makes the Cobb County School District one of the best in the state.

As a parent with you in kids in Cobb Schools and a homeowner, I am willing to pay an increase property tax to ensure a good education for my children. I am dismayed that the Board is not seriously considering this option due to political reasons. I think that is very shortsighted and not in the best interest of our schools. I have written to the Board on this very issue and received very tepid responses about how many would not like that solution.

Mr. Platt — I wish you good luck in the future and hope that you find a job where you are respected and can continue to do what you love!

Where are the test scores?

May 28th, 2010
9:32 am

Have the test scores ever been not been reported on by this late a date in the school year?

Why is it, one year after the biggest cheating scandal in Georgia’s educational history, we do not have the test scores released to the public and reported on by the newspaper?

Mike

May 28th, 2010
9:38 am

It is really very simple. Non tenured teachers have little to no rights to due process so they are the easiest target. It is about what is easiest for the central office administrators and the board. Students and academics do not enter the thought process if these people. It is cowardly and dishonorable but perfectly legal in this state. The path of least resistance is the only path the people we allow to run our schools want to take. It happened to 140 teachers in my district last year (Hall) and now it is happening in the metro area districts. Everyone wants to whine about it but no one wants to do anything to have the rules changed. Just like everything else in education in this state.

What a crock...

May 28th, 2010
9:50 am

…the writer is somewhat eloquent yet he is seemingly complaining about being “terminated” because he is not tenured in Cobb County – he says that 10 years ago he made the decision to become a teacher, yet 2 years ago he made the choice to leave a prior job in teaching to accept a new position in Cobb County – had he stayed where he was he would be tenured and would probably not be facing this consequence of a CHOICE he made. Choices have consequences, and while he continues to be eloquent, he made the incorrect choice and is now paying the price.

He will find another job teaching, afterall, his specialty is in demand at ALL schools, so the private schools will find him, just as Cobb County did. But to assail the budget crisis as being his downfall is NOT teaching his students to accept responsibility for personal choices and their consequences.

You miss the point entirely crock

May 28th, 2010
9:52 am

Platt has said repeatedly this isn’t about him as he is fully confident in his ability to find other work. It’s about the students who are shortchanged as a result of shortsighted cuts.

and everyone thought

May 28th, 2010
9:52 am

the union was the problem. Perhaps if there was a real union who can stand up for the teachers, and the school boards who are willing to work with teachers, then maybe they could have come up with a more reasonable solutions. All members of the Cobb County School Board should resign for their mismanagement of the public resources.

who's the bigger crock...

May 28th, 2010
9:54 am

Platt or the School Board? Can you really support the School Board’s decisions?

phil

May 28th, 2010
9:58 am

If teachers & families don’t get out and vote these local & STATE legislators out, it will be your own fault. If we don’t vote these people out, the worse is yet to come. So please vote!

Dagny

May 28th, 2010
9:58 am

Actually, TENURED teachers were caught in this RIF trap as well. In my district, contracts were offered to teachers who had not yet met tenure requirements. Total years of service to the state and the county were NOT considered, even if you were a full-time, tenured employee. Maureen, I have tried in vain to get clarification on just what TENURE means in GA. Is there any way you could delve into this? Many of us were caught in this strange limbo land even though we thought we were protected by tenure. Please do not misunderstand me—BAD teachers should have been removed FIRST. However, just as there are remarkable young STEM instructors, there are experienced STEM instructors who were dismissed as well. There did not seem to be any attempt to look at critical teaching fields of expertise.

The school board is a crock

May 28th, 2010
10:00 am

How many school board members can even spell robotics, much less organize a robotics team? Under their leadership, even the Energizer Bunny would stop.

Proud Black Man

May 28th, 2010
10:19 am

“But to assail the budget crisis as being his downfall is NOT teaching his students to accept responsibility for personal choices and their consequences.”

Agreed. Truth is often a bitter pill to swallow.

“Maureen, I have tried in vain to get clarification on just what TENURE means in GA.”

You do have a computer don’t you?

http://www.pageinc.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=7#Tenure

dahraf77

May 28th, 2010
10:20 am

Quick question…How many STEM teachers have been victims of RIF. Even though there is a shortage of STEM teachers.

Proud Black Man

May 28th, 2010
10:21 am

“It’s about the students who are shortchanged as a result of shortsighted cuts.”

Okay quick show of hands; who wants to raise property taxes? Sort of like everyone wants to go to heaven but none wants to die.

Dagny

May 28th, 2010
10:27 am

Thanks, “Oh, ever-present PBM”. I have been to the websites which prove my point exactly. The tenure policy WAS violated by my district. I simply wanted Maureen to acknowledge this and provide some insight into how districts are able to get away with it.

oneofeach4me

May 28th, 2010
10:35 am

It’s a “me” society now. There is no longer a majority sense of village and togetherness when it comes to our communities. Some people always fall back on the fact they shouldn’t have to “pay” someone else’s way. Those same people’s children are probably attending private schools. What these same people fail to realize is that ALL children are our future, no matter if they attend a private school, a public school, or a non-traditional school. These kids are going to be our leaders, doctors, firefighters, policemen, chefs, waitresses, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, nurses… you can see where I am going with this. By ensuring that only “their own” are enlightened and educated, they are ensuring that “their own” children will be the ones screwed over by the non-educated and less fortunate kids of public school who had to cheat their way through. And people think the economy is bad now.

EVERY child deserves education whether their parent’s can afford it or not. I mean.. this IS America isn’t it??

SallyB

May 28th, 2010
10:41 am

RE: “Perhaps if there was a real union who can stand up for the teachers”

Has anyone noticed that it seems to be that states that have REAL teacher’s unions always end up in the upper half of the test score/education rankings ??

phil

May 28th, 2010
10:47 am

Whine! Whine! Whine! Let’s see how many of you whiners will get out and vote these state legislators out! My feelin is that you all won’t vote. You’ll just whine.

oneofeach4me

May 28th, 2010
10:48 am

Maureen ~ my 1st comment evaporated.

EduPoli

May 28th, 2010
10:51 am

How can board members be blamed for a poor economy? The system receives allocated dollars from the state and federal governments along with revenues from property taxes (and in some cases SPLOST dollars). It is from this finite number of dollars that they must fund all portions of the budget. Most systems have already cut operational budgets to the bone, leaving only services to cut from (including classroom instruction). I agree that you can always find waste, and it should always be sought out, however the primary cause of today’s financial crisis in school systems in Georgia and around the country is the state of our US economy.

citizen

May 28th, 2010
10:54 am

I see lots of these meetings on TV. Everyone complaining about teachers getting fired or schools being shut down. I never see the complainers pass the hat or discuss how they want to pay for the excess.
It is about Math. If revenue in to the state goes down, revenue out from the state has to go down.

TailaMarie

May 28th, 2010
10:56 am

SallyB, my husband was pointing out the same thing just yesterday. I long for the time when we can have a real union and not just advocacy organizations

EnoughAlready

May 28th, 2010
10:56 am

Georgia doesn’t value education period (STEMS included). There was an article recently that said 100,000 or more teachers would be unemployed next school year. That is absolutely insane.

No job should have tenure. Only the best teachers should be allowed to keep their jobs in a good economy or bad one.

@EduPoli

May 28th, 2010
10:57 am

No one is blaming the board for a poor economy. However, they deserve a lot of blame for a poor management.

booklover

May 28th, 2010
11:04 am

@citizen–
You must be new to this blog, because here are some of the common suggestions on how to raise revenue/ keep teacher pay from being cut:
1. Raise property taxes.
2. Raise sales taxes and/or eliminate tax-free weekends.
3. Raise the cigarette tax, which is one of the lowest in the nation.
4. Allow for Sunday sales of alcohol. GA is losing ALL that tax revenue to SC (some communities sell on Sunday), FL, and the military bases.
5. Trim the top, not the teachers! A good third of the blog posts here deal with the waste at the state Board of Education and at local BOEs.

booklover

May 28th, 2010
11:06 am

Oh, and I forgot: manage and control the Georgia Lottery better. How many jobs could have been saved by the lottery head’s $250,000 BONUS this year?

EduPoli

May 28th, 2010
11:08 am

I serve on a school board in another district. Our district is debt free. We have not had to layoff any teachers (though we’ve not filled vacated positions). Our reserve fund is about 10% of our total budget. However, next year when ARRA funds are depleted, and if state revenues continue to fall or even remain at current levels, we may still be faced with RIF requirements. Most boards I am in contact with are working diligently to “make it work”. They do value education in Georgia and in fact recognize education as our state’s greatest economic engine (education and training a skilled work force). Don’t work against your boards. Work with them. Help them be proactive by engaging your communities to help find solutions to our weakened economy. This is the time we pull together, not drive a deeper wedge between us.

oldtimer

May 28th, 2010
11:08 am

There are also thousands of good teachers who have been teaching for years…even OLD ones..Just because you are new, young, and good doesn’t mean you are entitled to jobs. I, now retired, had 33 perfect evaluations. States with unions are also laying off teachers…The ones I know go strictly by tenure….union rules. Tn has TEA handle salary negotiations and the pay and benefits are less than in GA…..
Some of the states with best scores are in the midwest with much less diversity and more middle income students.

Alecia

May 28th, 2010
11:16 am

I would like to see the schools offer the parents a chance to contribute directly to the program of their choice and offer candid dialogue as to which programs are being cut. My child’s school just lost science enrichment. I am very involved, but did not know about it until the teacher was out the door. This teacher had a great way of instilling a love of science to elementary school aged kids. Also, some of the class projects were really neat and interesting. There are several parents, me included that would have gladly contributed private money to the cause. In the fall my child will be enrolled in private science enrichment classes outside of school. These classes are expensive, but my kid likes science and 15-30 minutes a day is pathetic. It would be worth it to have her afternoon schedule open for something else and have science happen during the school day.

Dagny

May 28th, 2010
11:23 am

To an outsider, I can see it appears as though teachers are just whiners. However, I offer the situation in DeKalb as evidence of just how much waste and mis-management occurs in the ivory-towers of the county offices. It is difficult to observe the abuses. The abusers of the system get by with it year after year and decade after decade. Yes, there are some lazy and worthless teachers in the ranks. Why not find a way to rid the system of those individuals? Why not task the “dead-weight” at the top with stepping-up and doing just that? Have them in the schools day in and day out to observe and identify poor-quality instruction. They should spend their days documenting and applying criteria already in place to alleviate the system of BAD teachers.

booklover

May 28th, 2010
11:29 am

@EduPoli–

When posters say “GA doesn’t care about education,” mostly we mean the populace as a whole. Citizens don’t want to pay $80 more per year on property taxes, or a couple of cents on a pack of cigarettes. What does that tell you?

I am glad that your board is managing resources well. Many boards, though, are not. My own board has many unnecessary people on staff in highly-paid positions; secretaries have secretaries, “technology” staff who are constantly calling my building’s media specialist because they have no idea what they are doing!

booklover

May 28th, 2010
11:35 am

Oh, and let’s not forget the “instructional specialists.” I never met ours until year 2 on the job in this county. I didn’t even know she existed! If she’s not reaching out to new teachers (either fresh out of school or new to the district), who is she helping? What is she doing? She’s making nearly $80K, though.

Many boards prefer to spend money on this type of “educator” (who frequently has personal connections to people on the board) rather than talented, passionate teachers like Mr. Platt.

As sad as it makes me, I suggest that Mr. Platt look for a job with the military, the federal gov’t, a defense contractor, or private industry. All offer better benefits and/or pay, less legal wrangling, and more social prestige than teaching in GA.

He is exactly the kind of teacher we need, but clearly we aren’t willing to sacrifice to keep him.

@ EduPoli

May 28th, 2010
11:39 am

I’m sure most teachers would love to work WITH the board, but the board does not appear to be interested in doing so – in this case Cobb County board.

d2

May 28th, 2010
11:51 am

I have seen some of the pictures of the Supers at thier meetings–Have you notice the nice expensive name plates that are displayed where they sit. In times like this, I think masking tape is better served, since teachers supplies are so cut back. I love it when I tour the Central Offices at some of these counties–nice sate of the art fax machines, well-maintained lawn, nice sprinkler systems,, 300 dollar roll back chairs-while teachers scramble to hunt for a pencil sharpener during EOCT’s and CRCT’s, told to use only 100 sheets of copying paper a year while dumping 35-40 kids in a classroom. It is neat to watch the county pay for the supers car, when they already make more than the average Georgia Doctor.

d2

May 28th, 2010
11:52 am

forgive me of the typos such as sate should be state

Federal Money?

May 28th, 2010
12:41 pm

Where is the federal money that’s supposed to coming our way. $850,000,000.00 to GA supposedly.
Can we trust the legislature and the governor to dole it out in an expeditious manner?

Cobb Mom

May 28th, 2010
12:41 pm

I was dumbfounded to get a letter from the Cobb assessor this week showing that our assessed value had dropped significantly. Not surprised that our house’s value is less…I get that part. What I don’t get is why taxpayers are going to pay LESS taxes now than before when schools obviously need the funds so badly. Maybe I should just take that money I’m saving in taxes and give it to the laid off teachers — maybe they should start their own school and we’ll fund it with that money???

The populace and politicos in GA truly do not care about education, do they/we?

EduPoli

May 28th, 2010
12:56 pm

re: Cobb Mom

“maybe they should start their own school and we’ll fund it with that money???”

Here is the beginning of a paradigm shift in education. Why must we continue looking at education as it currently is? Why not truly “think outside of the box” and power-think new ways to provide education for our young?

Georgia is full of bright, intelligient citizens. Working together, methods never before conceived can be discovered. We educate to prepare children to be productive citizens. Let us, as Georgians, focus on that issue.

MannyT

May 28th, 2010
12:58 pm

When it comes to any industry (like ed) where the end customer has little responsibility for putting his/her money into the revenue stream as a direct result of service, the industry will take advantage of that customer.

When it comes to politicians and money, listen to the words, but let your eyes follow the money. It’s always great to talk about education, but kids don’t vote, nor do they make significant political donations. As long as their representative adults (parents) do not work together, it’s easy for the professional politicians to speak one way and act another.

Parents–it is time to go to the office of your county, state, federal politicians in groups and ask for answers. Take video with that cool phone of everyone that speaks. Get a name and a title. Make the unknown “THEY” real and specific. Our kids are real and specific losers when we eliminate opportunities for them to learn.

Don’t wait until November. Now is late, but hopefully not too late. Take at least 2 friends, tell at least 2 more…and get ‘it done.

Patriot

May 28th, 2010
1:03 pm

Educating the children of Georgia has taken a backseat to our pocketbooks and the political debate of who should pay to educate some one elses kids.

What happened to “community responsibility” in Atlanta and Georgia? Too many of our neighbors are only interested in lending a hand when their own homes have been devastated or their personal comforts are challenged. Why is it that we now choose to sacrafice our children’s future so we may hold on to that precious couple of thousand dollars for that afternoon golfing or the evening on town?

Georgia, remove your collective heads from your communal posterior and realize what is important to our communities.

Maureen Downey

May 28th, 2010
1:12 pm

@oneofeach: Is your comment back? I just emptied the filter of legitimate comments.
Maureen

Patriot

May 28th, 2010
1:12 pm

PRoud Black Man asks who wants to raise property taxes?

The folks who care about their own property values and the ability to sell their homes some day should raise property values
The folks who want more than the basic services from their communities should raise property taxes.
The folks who dont want their cars beaten to c rap on potholed roads should raise property taxes.
The folks who do not want to live in a third world country should raise property taxes.

If you want to live in clayton county – reduce the taxes you pay and enjoy what you get.

avoiding the responsibility?

May 28th, 2010
1:19 pm

“Here is the beginning of a paradigm shift in education. Why must we continue looking at education as it currently is? Why not truly “think outside of the box” and power-think new ways to provide education for our young?”

Did you say you actually serve on a school board? So you think it was a good idea for the Cobb schools to let go of hundreds of teachers, so that maybe they will start their own schools – or do something “outside of the box”? In the meantime, what do you think public schools should be doing? What is YOUR responsibility to manage public schools in your district? Is your way of thinking common among school board members? You want the public to work with the school board, but are you interested in working with teachers?

Maureen Downey

May 28th, 2010
1:27 pm

@Where are the test scores. We have not ever gotten statewide scores this early. So, that is not unusual.
Maureen
I just sent Matt Cardoza at DOE a note. (And despite being on furlough today, he responded, ”Hopefully by the end of next week we will have them. We are not holding them back. The release date the last several years has been around this same time.”
UPDATE on Tuesday; Matt sent me an updated estimate: “We should have statewide numbers to release by the end of next week (June 9, 10, or 11).”

drew (former teacher)

May 28th, 2010
1:33 pm

Just wondering…what criteria was used by CCPS to determine which teachers were not renewed?

And Proud Black Man…I’m impressed, no schocked, by your comments; two intelligent and articulate comments, WITH NO MENTION OF RACE OR TEA-WHATEVER! Are you really Proud Black Man???

em

May 28th, 2010
1:41 pm

I think the bitter pill to swallow is not necessarily the RIF’s per se but the lingering question, “Has EVERYTHING been done to insure that the children of Georgia receive a basic education in math, science, social studies, language arts, and the fine arts?” In the rather small school district where I teach, the local supplements for coaches and salaries for administrators are approximately two million dollars annually, which is relatively small compared to other systems. I do not begrudge these salaries nor am I advocating anyone losing their jobs; however, since most of these positions do not DIRECTLY affect the basic education of a child tough times call for tough decisions (and in my school system, the tough decisions are being made). If the Georgia Assembly can move a piece of legislation to suspend classroom sizes as quickly as it did, why did it not consider legislation changing the use of SPLOST revenue to cover teacher salaries? Why has the State not suspended the GHSGT or the EOCT? Are both exams necessary especially in these difficult economic times? It might also be somewhat helpful if administrators at every level taught at least one course in their field (and I do realize that this is not practical at the elementary school level). Honestly, when I read these blogs, I feel fortunate in that the jobs lost in my system have been mostly through attrition. Our school board and administration have gone to great lengths to minimize the recession’s effect; however, like everyone else around the state, we are feeling it.

drew (former teacher)

May 28th, 2010
1:43 pm

Mr. Platt will be fine, and he’s right, it’s the students that will suffer. And the people who decided that he was no longer needed as a teacher in Cobb County, look like fools.

And Patriot hit the nail on the head…everyone likes to “talk” about how important education is, but they choose not to put their money where their mouth is. Everyone wants good schools, but no one wants their taxes raised.

But with the recent (and surely ongoing) thievery in Dekalb County, it’s hard to blame people for not wanting to throw their tax dollars into some educational black hole where accountability seems to be spotty at best.

Attentive Parent

May 28th, 2010
1:52 pm

Maureen-

STEM has multiple meanings. In its traditionally understood meaning it is being touted in order to obtain support from the business community and politicians to provide funding for whatever programs are said to be beneficial.

For example the new math curriculum gets blind support because we do need to do better.

In reality much of the national STEM agenda is a reimagined math and science that will not get Americans ready for the jobs of tomorrow. As the phrase goes “algebra for all means Algebra for none”.

Teachers like Mr Pratt, whom I do not Know, have the science and math background to know what MUST be mastered to have the foundation to perform true science, math , computing, and engineering in college. But those skills and interests are not equitably distributed within the US population. Hence the need to reimagine STEM courses as activities accessible to all.

That’s how they plan to close the achievement gap. We will simply no longer push academic programs unless anyone can do them.

The Common Core Standards are a big part of this push for mediocrity for all under rhetoric designed to win political support.

It’s not just STEM. Look where English is going.

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_now/2010/05/farewell_to_a_farewell_to_arms.html

It’s the College Board pushing this little content LA curriculum.

This is the future actual implementation that Common Core will create.

Maureen- Do you think you’d be a writer today if SpringBoard had been your high school curriculum?

Lynn

May 28th, 2010
2:07 pm

I agree with Cobb Mom. The new assessment levels are a more accurate reflection of “today’s” property values, but the damage to next year’s budget will be severe. I would also like to know the total bodies lost in Cobb this year. That would include the number who resigned in lieu of termination as well as the RIFs. We will never get an accurate count of the “forced” retirements, but it is time for CCSD to stop hiding behind the 500+ positions terminated. Let’s look at some real numbers.

CCSI

May 28th, 2010
2:29 pm

I would take the “mediocre” CCSI math standards as the first step over many of the current state standards in this country.

bootney farnsworth

May 28th, 2010
2:37 pm

until we actually give a damn about education in Georgia
this sort of thing will continue.

get used to it. things are gonna get worse before they
(eventually ?)get better