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Dream job lost, a beloved teacher hopes for return to her school

by thenotebook on Jun 18 2013 Posted in Latest news

by Sonia Giebel

Natalie Hawtin, 2nd grade teacher at Greenfield Elementary, was one of 676 teachers laid off by the District on June 7. (Photo: courtesy of Natalie Hawtin)

Natalie Hawtin is in demand. “Parents are clamoring to have their children in her class next year,” wrote Greenfield Elementary School parent Jacqueline F. Bershad in a letter to Superintendent William Hite, “even though the other 2nd grade teachers are excellent, beloved, and much more experienced." 

Another parent, Serena Dignan Fisher, wishes she “could just clone [Ms. Hawtin]” because she is “that good.” For example, Hawtin helped introduce a nationally prominent literacy program to 2nd grade this year, which was her first at the school. Hite himself visited her classroom in October, and left impressed.

“He thanked me for my hard work and told me my classroom looked great,” Hawtin said.

No matter. The 31-year-old Hawtin is leaving Greenfield, one of more than 600 teachers who received layoff notices earlier this month. 

“This is my dream job,” she said. 

As the School District applies its “doomsday” budget, maximizing class size and eliminating most “extra” services, Greenfield lost several teaching positions. Two teachers were force-transferred out. Hawtin, who has worked in the system for less than three years, was the only one to be laid off.

It took a shine off her dream job. “When you feel you’ve been disregarded,  it feels a lot less personal,” she said. 

Journey to Greenfield

Hawtin moved to Philadelphia three years ago from a small town in Michigan, where she struggled to find a long-term teaching position. This is her second time being laid off. And despite her devotion to Greenfield, she says she has no choice but to look for a job in charter schools or outside Philadelphia.

“I’m sending out my resumé to as many places as possible,” she said. 

But to do so breaks her heart. She wants to live in the city, and she feels she has found a home at the acclaimed Center City school. 

She first encountered Greenfield when she worked there sporadically as a substitute soon after arriving in the city. She felt an immediate connection to the school.

“Greenfield is a very diverse school in the city, but is very community-oriented,” she explained.   

During her first year here, she bounced between schools. She held long-term substitute teaching positions at Willard and Webster elementary schools, both in the Kensington-Port Richmond area. In February 2011, she landed a permanent position at Crossan, in the Northeast, only to be laid off later that year. She then taught at Levering in Manayunk.

Despite her frequent transitions, Hawtin maintained her relationship with Greenfield, continuing to substitute now and then, while keeping in touch with friends there. It was always her hope to return as a permanent member of the faculty. 

“On my way to work [in other schools], I would point to the windows [of Greenfield] and say, ‘One day, I’m gonna work there,’” Hawtin remembers.

So when Greenfield had a teaching opening last year, she hand-delivered her resumé to principal Daniel Lazar. She went through the site-selection process, in which the principal and a leadership team interview and choose among applicants, and soon began teaching in a classroom just below the windows she so often pointed to.  

She felt a sense of accomplishment at reaching her goal and filled the spacious, bright classroom with books. It became her new home. Her father made cubbies and a bench for a reading corner in his daughter’s classroom, loading the furniture into his pickup truck and driving it from Michigan to Pennsylvania. Those personal touches, Hawtin said, made her and her students feel that “this is our classroom.”  

Children’s Literacy Initiative

Soon after she got there, Hawtin signed up to bring Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI) to her 2nd-grade classroom. The initiative, which started in Philadelphia, is a nationally known program that helps teachers create word-rich and literacy-focused classrooms from preschool to 3rd grade.  

The program, which received a prestigious grant from the U.S. Department of Education so that it could expand, recruits teachers, puts them through special training, and closely monitors and supports them. When Hawtin got to Greenfield, the school had the program in kindergarten, 1st and 3rd grades, but not in 2nd.  

Hawtin thrived under CLI, and soon was recognized as one of its “model classroom teachers.” As a result, her students were granted access to a wealth of books.

“I’ve never seen a class that loves to read more than my kids,” she said. Hawtin noted that in one case she was able to move a child whose native language was not English from a kindergarten reading level to a 2nd-grade level in one year.    

Hawtin’s work immediately attracted the attention of Greenfield’s active Home and School Association, which has supported Hawtin since her layoff notice and lobbied Hite to reinstate her. They feel invested: Parents were part of the site selection committee that hired her.  

“Ms. Hawtin was selected by Greenfield to become part of our community,” noted Bershad’s letter to Hite. “She is the teacher who stays late for school parties and returns emails on the weekend. As times become leaner and meaner, she is the teacher Philadelphia public school children desperately need.”

Caring for self and others

Hawtin’s classroom centers on the “Power of Three,” one of the hallmarks of the CLI program in cultivating positive classroom culture.   

The Power of Three prescribes:

  1. Take care of yourself;
  2. Take care of others; and
  3. Take care of your classroom and environment.  

It is this attitude that Hawtin hopes to convey to her students.  

Since news of her layoff, her students have been writing letters to Hite. As a teaching tool, she helped them find quotes to bolster their arguments. One letter included a quote from Albert Einstein: “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” Another was from Victor Hugo: “He who opens a school door closes a prison.” 

Hawtin’s students told her they would remember the Power of Three -- the core values of treating others with respect and crafting meaningful relationships. 

Those relationships, Hawtin says, are where the “School District is a little out of touch.”  In light of her layoff -- alongside nearly 3,800 other District employees -- Hawtin says, “Faces have turned into numbers. [People] have forgotten about personal relationships. That’s the basis of learning.”

Future uncertain 

No matter her situation in the coming year, Hawtin hopes to return to Greenfield eventually.

“I want to live in the city,” she said. “It’s a special thing to feel community in the city.” 

As of now, her chances of returning to Greenfield are slim. There are fewer teaching jobs in general; the District needs to accommodate teachers displaced from the 24 schools that are closing. Unless the District rescinds all the layoffs at once instead of piecemeal, teachers will be rehired in order of seniority. So even if she is rehired, the Greenfield position may be gone by the time the opportunity gets around to her. 

Hawtin knows how hard she’s worked and the difference that she’s made. Her situation doesn’t seem logical to her or in the interest of her students.

Trying to make sense of it, she said, “I can’t believe there’s another teacher who deserves my position more than me.”  

Sonia Giebel is an intern at the Notebook.

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Comments (94)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 17:05.

A crying shame!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 21:48.

Everyone - no need to read the rest of the comments, I will summarize it below:

The layoffs were done according to seniority (new teachers were let go).

To some this makes perfect sense, because they equate seniority with experience, and therefore those people who have worked the longest have he best ability to teach, and have the god given right to their job.

The rest of us seem to understand that seniority does not equal ability. We also realize that for a system of layoffs for skilled laborers (these people are not migrant berry pickers), seniority is only one factor that should be used. There are ways of rating the teachers, and they should also be implemented.

The Union provides optional training for teachers. Maybe attendance should be taken at these sessions and this should also weigh in.

In this one case (is it unique or has it played out multiple times across the district) you have a highly performing teacher that is losing her 'dream' job solely because she has only been at it for 1 year. She is being replaced by someone else who will have large shoes to fill, I hope they are up to it.

Submitted by Anne T (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 17:07.

Head up. Be proud of what you've done. In the mid-70's early 80's the teaching positions were few and far between. I was laid off 7 years in a row, never knowing what I would be doing or where. I finally ended up in what I considered my dream job and was laid off once again. The school that I ended up in when rehired became my dream job. It was a little-known gem in West Philadelphia with a very welcoming atmosphere. The job was harder to do here, but I was fulfilled. I stayed there until I retired 30 years later. I hope you find another dream job or get rehired at Greenfield. Good luck.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 17:12.

lol really

Submitted by TeacherinPhilly (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 17:25.

I hope she will make it back to Greenfield at some point by filling out a right to return. All teachers who are laid off and force transferred must do this if they are called back, and then continue to fill out this form at the beginning of each year. You can always decided to stay at your new school, but always give yourself the option to get back.

Submitted by Aimee M. (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 17:53.

As a former colleague, I know that any school that gets Natalie as a teacher is incredibly lucky. It's such a shame for her to have lost her dream job.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 06:04.

The reality of working at Greenfield is not the reality of working at at a Bethune or Wilson. It's not very hard to flourish is an optimal environment. I'm really wondering why this is even news. A better story would've been on a laid off teacher from a typical district school not a Greenfield or a Masterman. Now those teacher's working with the bare basics in buildings that should've been condemned a long time ago but who are yearning to return to teach the kids in those blighted neighborhoods now that's a story. Yearning to go back to Greenfield is not a story. Kudus for all that she's done at Greenfield but in my opinion doing the same thing & having the same passion at a school like Duckery is at the heart of what true teaching is.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 08:59.

wow really? Every place has it's own struggles. You're saying this woman isn't a true teacher? Get over yourself.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 06:48.

Learn to read. I never said that.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 06:59.

You implied it genius

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 18:36.

When my husband was a young teacher, he got "pink slipped" twice and force transferred once. Unfortunately, this practice is nothing new. I'm sure this talented young woman will make a wonderful difference to the students in schools less elite than Greenfield. Sadly, over 3,700 school district employees have gotten lay-off notices and will be happy to be rehired at any school where they can help children and continue their careers. It's a disgrace that so many school district employees are being dismissed. It's also a disgrace that the SRC is causing a divisiveness over the issue of seniority.

Submitted by concerned parent (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 19:57.

As a union supporter, I can't believe that no one is talking about the elephant in the room. Seniority. Why should this teacher lose her job because of when she started.There are some places where seniority should count, salary, if a teacher wants dibbs on a certain subject, grade or even classroom space but here, no way! Not fair. This one good teacher is being lost at Greenfield and that sucks think about how terrible the impact is at West Philly high. despicable

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 19:58.

This same story is being repeated in just about every single school throughout the district. It's so disheartening that schools lack any agency in the layoff process at all and that politics are all that's between teachers and the students who want to be taught by them. Furthermore- how is it that a teacher who was placed by a fair site selection process, can be displaced by seniority. What an arbitrary meat-handed system. We're going to lose our best teachers to the schools and districts that treat them most like qualified, intelligent professionals, and then we're going to lose parents and students.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 20:18.

she one of over 600... who cares

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 20:47.

hush. be civil.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 06:07.

My point exactly. Who cares? I also think that having students write letters to Dr. Hite is highly inappropriate. I guess those students are exercising persuasive writing. Heads up to the younger teachers-- dress professionally on more then just the interview.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 21:36.

Red is worn by to support of teachers. Thousands of students wrote letters to address educational concerns. Why shouldn't they?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 06:58.

She looks more like a Target employee then a teacher. She's not professionally dressed at all. Kudos for all her hard work but she needs a lesson in professional attire & she's not the only one in the SDP. I'm amazed at how some of our colleagues dress for work.

Submitted by TeacherinPhilly (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 20:39.

Teachers haven't been displaced by seniority. They've been displaced by the disastrous state takeover of the School District of Philadelphia.

Submitted by Phillyteacher (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 20:43.

How arrogant to say, “I can’t believe there’s another teacher who deserves my position more than me.” How insulting to other teachers to say such a thing. There are 600 other teachers who were laid off. They deserve positions too. Before she sings her praises, she needs to prove herself at a low performing school with children who live in poverty.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 20:53.

She PROVED that she is a quality teacher and deserves to stay at the school where she has cultivated a relationship with students and families. To be constantly shifting bodies is absurd. WHEN the money comes through, she needs to return to where she came from. Screw seniority. This is not survival of the fittest - sorry if you were at a tough school, but some people get lucky. She shouldn't be punished because of that.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 06:12.

She got lucky huh? So those of us who teach in North Philly, Southwest etc are unlucky I guess. She's naive and arrogant and you are wearing blinders. I'm lucky and blessed to be making a difference in the lives of my students & families in North Philadelphia. What she deserves is a reality check & so do you. She's lucky more like blissful ignorance.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 07:18.

Your arrogance about working in one of those neighborhoods makes you no better than those working in affluent neighborhoods. Lose the chip on your shoulder. If you love working at your school so much, why are you getting so worked up over this article? Jealous? Trying to get her job now that she's out of the way?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 06:55.

I've worked in very poor schools, the middle of the road schools and schools where parents had numerous resources. By far teaching the neediest kids requires so much more of you. You are not just their teacher you become a surrogate for alot of the things they lack in life. My experience at Houston is dramatically different from my experience at my current school in North Philly. I loved them all but I'm working where I'm needed most. The mark of a true teacher is one that can reach all children. You can't ever find out what you're made of if you don't challenge yourself. Three years is way too early to know.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 06:19.

You would have to be an absolute moron not to flourish at Greenfield. The question is can she. PROVE to be a quality teacher at another location? Would she prove to be at Childs? Really. Too bad so sad. Greenfield students will not suffer. My advice spread your wings and a little sunshine in other parts of the city. The world does exist outside of Center City. Prove yourself in West Philly and btw Penn Alexander doesn't count lol.

Submitted by Christa (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 20:54.

Hear, hear!!

Submitted by Christa (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 20:53.

I'm very sorry that she has found a school that she likes and that likes her back but due to seniority she is being let go. If we do not use seniority to layoff people, there is no true way to do it fairly. Does it always make sense? Absolutely not. Is it shame that she is an amazing teacher who is leaving because of seniority and layoffs? Yes! But when you start judging people arbitrarily or according to subjective terms, you open the system up to complications that can become so much bigger than the layoff itself. What makes one teacher qualified and amazing to one principal can make them no so great and not as qualified to another principal. Laying off based on seniority is the fairest way to do things. This of course does not take into account that not every teacher in Philadelphia is as amazing as the teacher featured in this article.

Laying off according to subjective reasons can lead to legal issues such as wrongful termination. If she were to get her job back and others were not, that could open a door for problems that would have to be settled in court and cost $$ that should not be spent on litigation that can be avoided.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 21:27.

Why is seniority the only criteria? How about performance?

Many businesses have a way of conducting fair performance reviews. Why aren't teachers subject to this process?

Just because someone has avoided layoffs for 25 years, does not make them a good worker, maybe they were just 'lucky'.

I suggest that the next contract have some sort of performance appraisal system built in. Then when we have the next crisis, performance as well as seniority can be factored into who gets to keep their job (as if working in a school is some sort of right, rather than something that is earned).

Submitted by Christa (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 23:07.

Oh anonymous, you sound like a broken record. Reasons why a teaching career is hard to "earn"

1. It takes most teachers between 3 and 5 years to find their groove and feel completely comfortable in the job. ALL aspects of the job. Tis the reason about 50% of people leave the profession within the first 5 years.

2. WE have soo many unpredictable and uncontrollable variables that pertain to our performance. We have to deal with students who are hungry, tired, suffering from toothaches, eye pain because they need glasses, and a variety of other outside factors. You think that shouldn't matter, try teaching a child how to simplify fractions when they can't concentrate because of the reasons I listed.

3. The criteria for us to be considered "effective" or successful is ever-changing.

4. Our administrators, bosses are incompetent, vindictive, unprofessional and completely unable to assess a teachers quality. When Philadelphia decides to retain professional administrators whom have been proven to be master teachers, then we could talk about basing my job on my performance.

5. Our performance can vary greatly from year to year depending on a variety of factors. The principal, school climate and the background of my students have all adversely affected my job performance. No matter how effective I am, I cannot overcome students who come from homes where education is not valued and their families do not prepare them to learn. If children do not have motivation to learn even after I have tried my darnedest to instill it in them in the short amount of time I have them, then Im sorry but there is no "effectiveness" in the world that will be able to overcome that.

For teachers to do their jobs in Philadelphia and make true and lasting progress, we need support from excellent principals, more incentive(and I don't mean money) to participate in things like Children's Literacy Initiative, we need professional development that addresses dealing with severe behavior issues, collaboration with colleagues, differentiation, implementing technology. WE also need a school district that will provide us the resources we need to do our job: textbooks that are less than 10 or 15 years old, computers in every classroom that work and can support learning, we need smaller class sizes because I highly doubt you manage 33 people at work without making some decent money and having a team of people behind you to help you do your job.

Stop trying to put public school teachers in the private sector box, Your job is completely different from mine, You are not charged with molding and shaping a little human. Chances are you know exactly what you are expected to do at your job and you make sure that you complete of your expected assignments to make sure that you maintain your position or get promoted. WE do not always have that in teaching. I could go on and on, bottom line until you walk a mile in my shoes, DONT JUDGE!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 06:03.

These are all good points, but again, a system solely based on seniority is not the answer. In fact, as you point out: "It takes most teachers between 3 and 5 years to find their groove and feel completely comfortable in the job."

It seems that you are advocating that newly hired teachers should be exempt from layoff at the beginning of their careers so that they can learn to become better teachers.

This is part of my point - seniority alone is not the answer. Thanks for supporting me!

Submitted by Christa (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 06:25.

You are GROSSLY mistaken...I do not support you.

I believe that if we overhauled our teacher training programs that a majority of our issues with teachers would be resolved. Most teacher training programs do not have undergraduates entering the classroom until their Junior year of college and even then its only for a short period of time. Student teaching is a bit of a joke as well. 14-16 weeks in a school studying under a current practicing teacher is not adequate. There are entirely too many things, tiny details that encompass the job of teacher.

We need professors at colleges who have first hand experience teaching in the city. My own experience at college was with professors who taught for Central Bucks and Council Rock, they had no idea how to help me prepare for students rolling on the floor, angry outbursts, defiant behavior, anti-social behavior and such.

THe fact that it takes teacher 3-5 years to understand and feel comfortable in the job is a HUGE indicator that we need to overhaul teacher training so that it doesn't take that long.

You and everyone like you can keep your believe that seniority is the problem....you will find out the hard way when newbies flood the classrooms and things still arent any better.

Submitted by Douglas (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 06:37.

Well said, Christa. I agree with you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 07:24.

Great, let's get together and figure out how to fix the education training system in the United States, and then once that is done, we can hope that the changes trickle down to our city.

In the mean time, Philadelphia is still broken.

I will say it again - Seniority cannot be the only criteria for keeping a job, other factors such as performance should also be considered.

Maybe the teachers union should work on the training issues? What has the union done to address this (after all, they are the advocates for the teaching profession)?

Submitted by Christa (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 08:09.

The union does offer training in classroom management, managing anti-social behavior and differentiation. They hold course offering twice a year. BUT THEY ARE VOLUNTARY...teachers are not required to attend them. We are only required to attend School District offered Professional Development on certain days throughout the year.

The training needs to be done before teachers graduate college and enter the classroom.

Performance can be a factor when the whole picture is taken into consideration. If you are rated based on your performance and your team is not up to snuff, you can provide evidence that you have done all you can to bring that team member up to standard. If that team member does not address their weaknesses and improve you can fire them or recommend they be fired. Teachers do not have the same luxury with students(our team). If a student does not meet the standard despite all the evidences a teacher can provide that they went above and beyond for that student, the teacher still gets held accountable for that student.

You cannot put us into a private sector box of job quality and performance. We have too many unpredictable variables. Our work involves human beings not a tangible product, or sales figure. If something doesn't work in the private sector you can discard of it. If a student doesn't work we cannot discard them we must keep trying and trying.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 20:25.

Thank you Christa for taking the time to explain things to the imbeciles who haven't a clue. I myself don't have a clue.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 21:02.

The Greenfield principal sending this letter shows the whole problem with abandoning seniority. No one will have any job security. In a few years someone may come along that the principal likes for whatever reason, and this teacher she wants to replace other on her staff would then be replaced. It puts assignments at the whims of administrators.

Seniority was developed after years of bitter experience with people having no job security and living under an authoritarian system which had no objective process. It is the principal's job to remove a teacher if they cannot do the job, but to do away with seniority so a principal can remove someone on a whim because of layoffs is courting disaster.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 21:06.

Sorry, I mean the Greenfield parent sending the letter, not the principal.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 21:35.

"seniority was developed"? What does that even mean?

What you are saying is that the only fair system is to rate people by time, as opposed to ability?

Submitted by tom-104 on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 22:34.

Because then employers can get rid of teachers with more seniority because they are higher paid. If someone has lasted twenty years in a position it is because they have developed skills and abilities that can only be developed over time. If hiring is up to the whim of the employer, the overriding criteria will be which is cheaper, not which is the better teacher. Do you really think that having no job security will make good teachers?

People have no more respect for the wisdom of age in this country than they do for education. There is a connection!

Submitted by Education Grad ... on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 01:12.

"If someone has lasted twenty years in a position it is because they have developed skills and abilities that can only be developed over time."

Tom, I completely agree with you that it's important to have seniority. Otherwise, the most expensive teachers would be the first ones to receive pink slips.

However, on the above point you made, I must disagree. In my brief experience in the District, I have seen first hand that experience does not equal quality. Yes, with experience comes certain wisdom and skills. However, let's not pretend that number of years in a given position equals quality.

The quality of one's teaching, principaling, or other work can fluctuate over time, based on the environment of the school, placement (preferred grade/subject versus non-preferred) employee's age, burnout, student characteristics (e.g. more behavior problems), and so on.

Unfortunately, there are teachers and other employees, including principals, who have lasted in the "system" of the School District of Philadelphia because no one cared enough or took the time to (a) either make sure he/she was doing a good job and push him/her to do so or to (b) counsel out or remove him/her when it became evident that he/she was not doing his/her job well on a consistent basis and, therefore, was not providing the best service to students. Also, many principals, as well as some teachers, have friends in the central office or in their school and, therefore, have some degree of protection against incompetence.

Unless principals and teachers, as well as the PFT, take seriously that there ARE teachers and principals in the SDP who do a poor job, there will be a credibility problem with some sectors of the population in the city. There are too many students, parents, and District employees who have seen incompetent people working for the District in the school buildings. It's not something that can be covered up. The issue must be addressed head-on so that these incompetent, poorly performing employees do not affect the collective reputation of those employees who do their jobs well.

We have to keep children at the center and balance the concern for children with the rights of adults who work for the District to have fair salaries/wages, working conditions, evaluations, and so on.

EGS

Submitted by tom-104 on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 06:39.

If someone has been a teacher for many years, and is an incompetent teacher, the principals are not doing their job. So what makes you think that principals being able to select teachers without an objective criteria would be the solution to the problem of principals not doing their job in regards to removing incompetent teachers?

It has been my experience that principals pressure incompetent teachers to transfer and they just move around the system year after year.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 00:03.

Tom,

I never ever said give principals more power. I was simply pointing out that experience does not equal quality and that people need to stop equating seniority with quality.

There should be a more rigorous evaluation process, but it should include peer review, so that the evaluation isn't contingent just on what the principal thinks. Also, more often than not, other teachers are more knowledgeable about what constitutes good instruction than is the principal.

EGS

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 05:25.

Tom is correct. Principals - at least at the high school level - will either eliminate the position (which is often possible) or pressure the teacher to transfer.

There are so many incompetent, vindictive and egotistic principals that it is hard to imagine a fair process. There are also teachers who put friendship above professionalism. Seniority is not perfect but it is objective.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 04:10.

Why shouldn't layoffs be borne proportionately by all seniority levels? Management wouldn't be able to target higher earning teachers, but the district could retain talented younger teachers.

The idea that every teacher that makes it to 10 or 20 years is a good teacher, or better than every teacher with 5 years, is silly. People aren't stupid. They understand that the pure seniority based system the PFT created makes no sense.

Anyway, I am sure a good teacher like this will be hired by a charter or private school and parents will follow her. The PFT will then bemoan how charters don't have to follow the same rules while ignoring the PFT's role in creating stupid rules that lower quality in district schools and drive people to charters (or suburbs). Just another self-inflicted wound by for the district.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 04:22.

In most careers older workers earn more because they are more productive and capable. Most parents would prefer a teacher with a good reputation, who isn't fresh out of school.

The idea that management would just fire older teachers doesn't make sense unless management is incompetent, doesn't care what parents think and isn't accountable for results (all true in the district).

Or the comp structure is skewed to overpay older teachers relative to younger teachers, even adjusting for better quality of older teachers (equally true).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 06:15.

Laying off only older people in the work force is called age discrimination. It is wrong, and if proven is illegal. But is this really different than laying off the cheaper, less experienced work force?

Businesses always need to keep their 'pipeline' fresh with new talent. What is happening does not make sense. Getting rid of lower 20 (?)% of the work force is not logical. How will the gap ever be filled?

What people are confusing is that they think Seniority equals Skills. I do not believe that in all cases this is true. There need to be additional metrics that can be put in place to measure/rate teachers (seniority can be one of the factors, but performance should also be included) such that we we have the next doomsday layoffs that make sense can be implemented.

Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 08:19.

Do you honestly think when people are fired in our society, it is always due to ability? Really? Do you honestly believe that there isn't a single principal in The School District of Philadelphia who might have bias? Not a single principal cares about age, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, etc of a staff member? Not one? There isn't a single principal who wouldn't consider getting rid of an employee so a friend, or relative could move into their position?
And what would happen to staff working together? If I was a solid teacher, why would I help out a struggling teacher so he/she could improve and possibly take my job? "For the children"? Really? And possibly remove food from the table of my children? Not likely.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 07:21.

An authoritarian system?! Are you kidding me? Have you ever worked in the real world? Seniority is a major problem, with teachers thinking they have a job for life, no one is guaranteed a job for life in any other profession. It's time for teachers to enter the real world of employment, where unfortunately good people get fired sometimes. You folks seriously need to wake up!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 07:49.

This has been a paid commercial announcement from the Philadelphia School Partnership.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 16:51.

No, I am a Philadelphia property owner and an architect by profession. I have unfortunately experienced many lay offs in my career, you folks need to grow up!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 16:55.

And by the way do you know how many times I've lost my "dream job"? Grow up folks!

Submitted by concerned teacher (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 21:03.

This is why all those employees were laid off. To create this atmosphere of anger and churn. It will push the teachers who cannot get a job to charters or elsewhere. Why no articles about more veteran teachers who got forced out?? No tears for them?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 21:44.

She lost my support when she said she can't believe there's another teacher who deserves her position more than her. Very insulting. Yes, she did great things at her school, but there are many teachers like her all over the city who deserve to keep their positions as well.

Submitted by Mary (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 22:11.

It is very disappointing to read some of these comments. I am a parent at this school. This young woman, in just one year, has done more than any one person could dream or imagine in one year at the new job. She didn't teach my kids, but her efforts in every possible aspect could not be missed. We, parents and children, are all the richer for having interacted with her. I would be happy to write her a letter of recommendation for any job at any time, and I would be ready to help in any way possible. There are hundreds of families at Greenfield who would do it for her after she taught there for a year. Any of you who are questioning why she should feel she deserves her own job more than anyone else, ask yourselves frankly how many families would be ready to go out of their way to support your future employment efforts, should you need to look for a new job.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 20:28.

So why don't the Greenfield parents sponsor her salary and benefits for as long as she's laid off so your children don't suffer.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 07:14.

Why didn't the parents, at Greenfield, go all out and support the retention of a fabulous school nurse, whose placement was changed from 5 days to 2 days? Didn't your children deserve that fantastic full time school nurse? Didn't that school nurse deserve to have that placement?

Submitted by Peg D (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 10:14.

Dear Anonymous,

The parents at Greenfield DID go all out to support the retention of the school nurse. They attended multiple SRC meetings and pleaded for more funding for the nurse. The Home and School Association formed a "save the nurse committee." They conducted a major letter writing campaign and made tons of phone calls to 440. The reduction in nurse service was strictly financial and there was no more that the parents could have done.

Submitted by Charter Parent (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 22:17.

Our charter would be proud to have a teacher like her. In fact, our teachers are all like her. The proprietary pride they take in "their kids" and "their classrooms" is seen as a strength. She'd make a salary comparable to SD teachers and as to job security--our charter plans to double in size in the next 5 years. Who knows what will happen in the SD? I hope Ms. Hawtin sees this post and researches charters in CC. There's a best-in-state school not far from her former job. Topnotch reading teachers are always in demand.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 22:29.

I would love to know the names of these schools.

Submitted by Charter Parent (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 22:55.

It's one of these. Good luck.
http://www.greatschools.org/pennsylvania/philadelphia/

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 23:34.

Catch the above messages folks? We are being set up for privatization. This fiscal crisis is created by design to create the conditions for charters to raid the public schools which have been deliberately starved of resources since the state takeover in 2001.

Submitted by Anonymous on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 23:58.

I hope you are not talking about Russell Byers. They have had incredibly high administrative and teacher turnover. The administration did not renew contracts of numerous teachers who attempted to unionize. They have been subject to lawsuits by parents. They talk up their innovative curriculum, but actually use the same curriculum as public schools. They might look real pretty from the outside, but they are have a lot in common with public schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 06:59.

You are so right. All that glitters isn't gold.

Submitted by Solutions Please (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 22:26.

If layoffs are not determined by seniority, please tell us how us we can ascertain that there is a fair process in place. It is unfortunate that this school district has chosen to lay off nearly 4,000 people. My heart goes out to this teacher and all of the other employees who received layoff notices. There are other great teachers at Greenfield and throughout the district. If seniority is not the determining factor, what system can be devised that is concrete and is not subjective to determine who gets laid off?

Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 08:31.

I have yet to hear one. People talk about skills. They make it sound like in all of the cases there is a choice between one young exceptional teacher, and an old lousy one. "Oh no, the young energetic teacher gets the ax while the old head gets to stay". In so many cases, how do you determine?

Also, when it comes to mass layoffs that we are dealing with now, how do you determine? Do you get all the principals together and the Superintendent says, "Give me a list of any teacher who is either "lousy" or "just so-so" and they will get laid off? Does each principal rank each teacher from 0-100 and those with scores under a 65 get laid off? How does it work in a large system? Remember folks, those of us who work for the SDP work for the SDP not Such-and-Such Elementary School. Your employer is the SDP not your school (I see this on Linkendin often. People list their individual school as their employer, not the SDP).

I've also worked with principals who thought I was great, and that "I should be a principal". I have then worked with principals who thought I was a nincompoop. Who is right?

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 08:56.

May I offer a few points which I have learned through my 38 years experience dealing with these issues from several perspectives. First, as a teacher for 20 years and PFT Building rep for many of those years. Second, as a high school administrator for 14 years, and third now as an attorney who actually practices teacher tenure law.

Prior to the existence of public employee unions, the PA General Assembly wrote into the public School Code the "last in first out" or LIFO rules as we know them. They did so after their debate of all the issues of which we speak of today with the exception of the charter school issues and consequences which are also now squarely before us, too.

The LIFO rules were codified to deal with almost this exact situation. They were created specifically to deal with the need for "reductions of workforce" caused by budgetary constraints.

The present budgetary constraints are "choices" being made by those in power, our politicians and our SRC members. None of these layoffs are necessary and are "choices" made by our leadership who "have chosen" not to fund public schools properly and to not cut unnecessary budgetary items.

We, as a professional community, must stand back and look at the "big picture" and "balance all of the equities."

The problem with eliminating LIFO is that there is no fair and viable system for rating teachers across schools and across subject areas or even within schools. In the past, such principal centered evaluations were more often riddled with error and personal bias often based on "improper motive." The "take care of my friends and punish my enemies" mentality has been an institutional illness for years and years and has proliferated maddeningly during the last decade.

The PA General Assembly wrote the LIFO provisions into the School Code because it is the "least bad way of doing it." They are protections from wrongdoing which also proliferated prior to those rules being enacted.

Some day you will understand the "wisdom of our forefathers."

Laid off teachers will eventually be called back. They can not have school in September without calling the teachers back. Wherever you land, there will be really great kids who need a really great teacher just as much as any other really great kids anywhere.

We have all faced adversity in our professional lives and our personal protections are essential to a well functioning democracy and a well functioning public educational system.

Because of my life long experiences, I have gained every bit of respect for the PA General Assembly of 1949. All of the tenure provisions of the School Code were "well reasoned" and absolutely necessary for a well functioning public education system.

They enacted those provisions for the right reasons.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/18/2013 - 22:33.

I would love to know where these CC charter schools are.

Submitted by Education Grad ... on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 01:27.

I would be eager to hear comments from people of the Greenfield community about what qualities make Ms. Hawtin such a great teacher. What is exemplary about her teaching that sets her apart from other good teachers? Lesson planning? Instructional delivery? Communication with parents? How she treats her students?

I am asking these questions because I'm always curious about others' perceptions about what behaviors set those "great teachers" apart from the good teachers or average teachers. I will hopefully have my first teaching job this coming fall and love to hear the feedback of others about what constitutes greatness in teaching.

For anyone interested, here are two great articles on teaching:

"Teaching, Rather Than Teachers, As a Path Toward Improving Classroom Instruction": http://jte.sagepub.com/content/63/2/92.abstract

"Learning to Teach Nothing in Particular: A Uniquely American Dilemma": http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/winter1011/Cohen.pdf

EGS

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 10:00.

EGS - I've heard that Ms. Hawtin and a parent will be on Radio Times today. Might be a good opportunity to ask what makes her so great.

Submitted by Annony (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 02:04.

While it is unfortunate than ANYONE - teacher or other staff - has lost their job - the story fuels the anti-seniority position of Hite / Khin / SRC / Phila. School Partnership. Without seniority, staff work at the whim of administration. Besides the incentive to lay off staff who cost more, we also have to be concerned about nepotism, politics and vindictiveness. Some administrators rule like despots - anyone who questions anything in the school is subject to their vengeance. The charter school MO of hiring family, friends, etc. will once again permeate the District. (We already know how Penn Nixon has spread her power through putting friends in administrative positions.)

Determining "great" teachers too arbitrary to throw seniority out.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 04:10.

She might not get back to Greenfield right away but if she files a right to return, she will go back there as soon as a position becomes available. That is a right teachers have who are displaced in situations like this, thanks to the PFT contract.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 07:05.

If she is that good, so good that Hite is singing her praises, then perhaps she needs to be placed with more challenging and needy students. These students need the very best teachers.

Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 08:33.

Exactly! I always wonder why the best principals are almost always at the best schools. The worst schools often (not always!) have bad principals.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 09:10.

Best is not synonymous with magnet school. There are lousy principals at some magnet schools too.

Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 09:35.

I agree. Trust me. I know. LOL!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 09:11.

Best is not synonymous with magnet school. There are some lousy principals at magnets too.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 09:05.

I was thinking the same thing. Put the best teachers with the most challenging kids.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 07:42.

She is having her students write letters on her behalf, why doesn't she write the letters herself and just have the student's sign them! Outrageous!

Submitted by Concerned teacher (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 10:28.

Favoritism is bad for everyone, so called great teachers, as well as supposed mediocre ones. If she is so wonderful won't she be wonderful wherever she winds up?????

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 14:23.

Simple idea that would maintain seniority protection without disrupting school/teacher continuity:

1. Callbacks into the system are done based on system seniority (no change).
2. Once back in the system, building seniority and right to return take precedence when dealing with teacher placement.

Teachers with the most seniority certainly deserve to recalled first, but there is no reason they deserve the right to take a colleague's particular position.

This isn't fantasy football. Shuffling teachers around randomly hurts schools, students, and teachers alike. It's insane.

Submitted by J.J. McHabe (not verified) on Wed, 06/19/2013 - 14:58.

Not a bad idea. I wonder how it would work. If someone is called back, would they have a right to NOT return to their school and then take a true vacancy?

Submitted by Fatty (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 06:19.

Dear girl, how dare you say a thing like that. I thought we are all part of the same TEAM. But the sad thing is that next year at this time we (SDP) will be in the same situation and reading about the same thing.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 14:44.

Ms. Hawtin, you were fortunate enough to teach at a school like Greenfield instead of cutting your teeth at one of the tough schools elsewhere in the district. Instead of crying about being laid off and perhaps having to work in a school where you'll certainly have to " pay your dues", be thankful that you have skills that are marketable. You are NO BETTER THAN ANY OTHER HARDWORKING TEACHER IN THE SDP. Please don't ever forget that because by making the childish statement that you were better, you won't have many friends in any school outside of Greenfield.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 18:04.

Dear anonymous,
Nowhere in this article does this teacher state that she is better than anyone else. what she does say is she feels she deserves her current position and it is hard to imagine anyone else teaching in her current classroom. She interviewed for her current position, was placed in the position and then it was taken away from her. From the article, it is evident that this teacher loves her current job.

If anyone out there has ever been laid off, it is often difficult to imagine someone else doing his or her job. It is also difficult for a hard-working person that has been laid off to imagine someone else doing their job in a better way.

It is even more traumatic to be laid off from a job that you love.
In addition, there does not appear to be anything in what she said that indicates that she is not supportive to other teachers teaching in The SDP. Also, in the picture, she is wearing a read shirt, which is the color the teachers in The SDP wear to show solidarity.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 18:09.

And your point is? The same can be said about every teacher being laid off.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 19:09.

Yes, her shirt is red. We've been wearing a lot of red lately. If you are able, please read my comment again. I didn't say she stated she was better. I TOLD her she wasn't better than any other person teaching in the SDP. Many of us have experienced being laid off although we interviewed for our positions as well. The majority of teachers LOVE their jobs and their students. However, these things still happen. She needs to grow up and move on to her next assignment when it comes.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/21/2013 - 11:30.

It's not about making friends, it's about the students. It's not about senority, it's about the students. If you ever had the privilege of visiting Ms. Hawtin's room you would know she really is just that good! Not every teacher has the same skill, patience, dedication, motivation, open-mind, knowledge and love for children. They just don't. Some teachers do make a more lasting impression on children, parents, colleagues, and everyone else they come in counter with. I'm sure all hard working teachers strive for excellence but some are more impressionable than others. Not every employee in every workplace is the same. Some should be let go, some stand out and go above and beyond, and everyone else is hard working and doing a great job! Ms. Hawtin seems like the type of teacher who's always adjusting to go above and beyond for the benefit of her students, if not we wouldn't be reading about her.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 18:14.

I was simply responding to your comment: Please don't ever forget that because by making the childish statement that you were better, you won't have many friends in any school outside of Greenfield" which borders on being unkind.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 19:11.

You still don't get it.

Submitted by It's time to stick together. (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 19:13.

Rather than seeing this article as a caring teacher in the SDP who lost her job and is upset about it, you attack her and post all these negative remarks. My goodness, Natalie was simply talking about how much she loves her job and how hard she worked to get it. She didn't choose what quotes were put in the article. It takes so much more energy to be negative. Why don't you save some of your energy by posting something positive. Now is the time to stand behind one another. Age, experience, school aside, we are all being affected by what is going on. Even you non-teachers, I feel bad for you when in 20 years you need an operation and the person operating on you was shorted quality education.

Submitted by Parent (not verified) on Thu, 06/20/2013 - 19:59.

Thank You, Its Time To Stick Together! It seems that there is a lot of anger out there that perhaps is being misplaced. This is a time to react supportively and not destructively.

Submitted by Brenda Festa (not verified) on Wed, 06/26/2013 - 02:29.

Dream job is not available man. I am trying my best to get a job Ibut I am not getting any let alone the dream job.

Submitted by Robert Capel (not verified) on Wed, 07/17/2013 - 00:47.

Yeah sure you should join City University of New York professor Michelle Fine and longtime teacher and Rethinking Schools editor Stan Karp in a panel to take out the pushback on high-stakes testing

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/12/2013 - 12:43.

I used to love when I heard ignorance is bliss.I can't be I stumbled on to this article...but everything happens for a reason..life has been crazy...people have changed...I would give anything for one more moment..PS.do you remember the white mustang and the trips to GA? Please find me..it will not be hard!!

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