There are many good and great teachers, but even among them, Rafe Esquith is regarded as one of the standouts.
Rafe runs has done amazing work for decades, bringing Shakespeare and other literary greats to mainly minority students from low socio-economic backgrounds in LA. They visit places like Harvard to set their sights high, they watch and perform plays, they take educational visits. He feeds them snacks to keep them going. He gets them music tuition and instruments, too, largely through private donations from his many supporters.
Rafe’s work running The Hobart Shakespeareans has brought a list accolades as long as your arm, including National Medal of the Arts. a Compassion in Action Award from the Dalai Lama, and an MBE from the Queen. He was given the Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award and Disney’s National Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. There are documentaries about him, and he is written about in books about pedagogy. You get the idea.
In short, he is a great teacher.
And now Rafe is in “teacher jail”. He’s been there four months already.
In Los Angeles, the School District has what has been termed “teacher jail” for teachers under investigation. teachers report to the District’s offices and sit out the working day there, in some sort of odd house arrest. This is before anything has been proven and often with no criminal charges laid. Sometimes the charges are minor, and there are reports that the jails are sometimes used to silence teachers who oppose reforms too loudly.
Back to Rafe. His ‘crime’ was to joke that if The Hobart Shakespeareans didn’t get enough funds they would have to perform that year’s play naked. It seems that the joke passed and none of the students took it seriously or were concerned, but an observing teacher told management, and management told the district, and from then on it was the subject of an investigation. Not one parent or student has complained.
In fact quite the opposite:
The LA Times reports that “[t]he teachers union has criticized these so-called teacher jails, saying that instructors typically aren’t informed of the charges against them and that they are barred from their classrooms for far too long.”
It seems to me to be a heartbreaking state of affairs when such an inspired educator is taken out of his classroom for months on end for a throw away remark. Perhaps he should have been more prudent? But even if you think that’s the case, a reminder would have surely been enough?
The District has now widened its investigation into The Hobart Shakespeareans’ use of funds. It all seems rather reminiscent of The Crucible, where one person shouts witch and suddenly there’s a cacophony of accusations.
Of course, accusations must be investigated. But months and months sitting in a “teacher jail” seems a rather heavy handed approach when no charges at all have been laid. Meanwhile, Esquith’s students graduated without him and this year’s plays were cancelled.
As Rafe’s lawyer noted, it seems to be a case of “no good deed goes unpunished”.
The new Education Council has set out its agenda, and two things in particular are raising red flags.
Ethics or Conduct?
The Education Council also plans to develop a Code of Conduct for teachers that outlines expectations for teacher behaviour.
- Will the code infringe on teachers’ rights as citizens to freedom of speech?
- Is the Code of Conduct aimed at gagging teachers?
No Complaint Investigations
The Education Council can act on concerns about a teacher without receiving a complaint.
Education Council can “[a]ct on concerns about teacher conduct without relying on a third party complaint.”
- Ask yourself, if there has been no complaint, what – or who – has prompted the investigation?
- Will there be a clear paper trail showing who instigated the investigation process, explaining clearly why it is taking place?
- Does this have the potential to be used for (political?) bullying?
Is the Education Council free to truly work for education and does it fairly represent teachers, or is there undue political influence?
One to keep a close eye on.
Peru has seen an improvement in its education system over the past few years, and Peru’s Education Minister, Jaime Saavedra, credited this in part to the teacher training undertaken by previously untrained educators. Even today there was a press release to that effect. So it seems utterly bizarre that those very same teachers – the ones who have gone back to university and undertaken the training, have been hit with a mass sacking.
Teacher Solidarity reported that over 10,000 teachers have been sacked in Peru – some with over 30 years service. It reports that:
“[t]he teachers were hired on temporary contracts, mostly to work in low-income areas, pending their completion of a teacher training qualification – they had all come straight from university. But with their salaries on average $350 a month, they were usually not in a position to fund the new qualification.“
These teachers were hired in the 1990s when teachers did not need to be qualified. In order to become qualified, they would have to find the university courses themselves, but with wages a low USD$350 a month, many have found this an impossibility.
‘The Dean of the Teachers Association, Julio Mendoza, believes that the sudden change in government policy has economic and political motives. He argues that, “Basically, the goal is to reduce salaries and save money, but on the other hand it is also trying to encourage private, for profit education. With all these difficulties that are presented for public schools, the other sector keeps growing.”‘
Many, including Mendoza, fear that Peru is gearing up to privatise the school system:
“While the state requires an education degree for someone who works in public schools, it doesn’t for private ones. Any person can teach there. While public schools require exhaustive and strict exams for directors, in private schools the only requirement is to have a university title. It doesn’t matter if you are not a teacher. Therefore, they make it easy for public schools to create a business.”
This would be a bizarre move, given the Education Minister identifying teacher training as key to Peru’s improved educational success, as teachers in Peru’s private schools do not have to be qualified.
Yet the facts speak loudly – around half of Peru’s schools are already private schools, and banks and businesses are investing in them. It seems Peru is yet another country falling foul of neoliberal ideology, which hits teachers hard and at the same time fails to benefit students.
Worldwide, in all manner of ways, education is under attack from the money-makers.
Thanks, Milton Friedman, you must be so proud.
Peru on right path in education, says Minister Saavedra
Peruvian Public Teachers Protest Over Ten Thousand Dismissals
Peru: 10,000 teachers sacked in privatisation drive
Yesterday, with the passing of the above Bill, another blow hit New Zealand education. The Bill passed 61:59 with National, ACT and United Future voting it through.
The Bill gets rid of the Teachers Council and replaces it with EDUCANZ, a new professional body for the teaching profession. The problem here is that EDUCANZ cannot and will not represent teachers: Clause 1 of Schedule 22 in the bill outlines that the nine members of EDUCANZ will all be appointed by the Minister of Education. Not one member of EDUCANZ will be democratically chosen by teachers. Not one.
Even the EDUCANZ transition board, put in place well before the Bill was even passed, was chosen by the Minister of Education. And, you guessed it, “[a]t least five candidates from this nomination process will be appointed by the Minister, with the balance being selected by the Minister.”
Compare that to the Teachers Council, which “has 11 members, with four members directly appointed by the Minister of Education, three members appointed by the Minister following nomination by NZEI, NZSTA (School Trustees Association), PPTA and four members elected by the sector.’
The Bill also shrinks universities and wananga councils and removes the necessity for student representation on those council. These changes were rigorously argued against by well over a thousand submissions to the Education Select Committee. The submissions were, like last time, ignored.
Are you spotting a pattern here, of reduced representation? Of increased government control?
If you’re not convinced of that control thing, you may wish to consider that EDUCANZ will be writing a new Code of Conduct for teachers. That’s right, the Code of Conduct will be written by people entirely chosen by the Minister. Prepare to be gagged.
Reactions to the Bill Passing
The PPTA and NZEI both expressed their concerns over the EDUCANZ model.
Chris Hipkins spoke of a “string of bad decisions by the minister which have led to disastrous changes to the education sector” and called the move “the final nail in the coffin for teachers wanting representation on their own professional body”.
Sandra Grey, Tertiary Education Union national president, said the union will campaign at each NZ university and wānanga for their council to set aside one-third of council seats for democratically elected staff and student representatives.
In fact, the only people speaking in favour of the Bill, were Hekia Parata, Stephen Joyce and co.
Ask yourself why.
Sources and further reading:
I’d love to tell you what was reported in The New Zealand Herald, but they ignored the event completely. Of course.
Education Amendment Bill passes Parliament – Dominion Post
CONTROVERSIAL EDUCATION AMENDMENT BILL PASSES ITS THIRD READING – Education Review
Is this Government really “backing our teaching profession to win”?
Politicians arguing for and against the Education Amendment Bill (2) at the third reading on 10.2.15
When TIME magazine decided to put out a front page depicting a gavel smashing a shiny red apple, with the tag line “Rotten Apples – it’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher: Some tech millionaires may have found a way to change that” they really didn’t think for one minute teachers would sit by and let that go unchallenged, surely?
Click here to thunderclap TIME to tell them you want an apology.
US teachers have a battle on their hands right now, regarding tenure. Tenure gives teachers the right to due process if they are being disciplines or faced with being let go. It is not a job for life – it’s merely protection from being sacked at the whim of your employer, without any good reason.
You’d think that wasn’t too much to ask in any job? If an employee is not suitable, then you can show that and they can be let go. Fair enough. But you can’t sack someone just because it takes your fancy, or because they disagree with your politics, or because they spoke out.
This is what’s going on in the USA, and this is why there is a push to ‘reform’ tenure – and by reform, I mean remove it so that teachers can be sacked without due process.
Why would anyone want that. You have to ask yourself…
And in New Zealand we are not exempt, small changes here and there in our labour laws, small changes here and there to the Education Act allowing untrained teachers, proposals to have a code of conduct for teachers that expressly states we cannot speak out about our employer (our school, the government, both?).
The Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) is on a mission worldwide, and it’s teachers they have in their sights now.
Tell TIME not to fall for it and to stop sharing GERMers’ lies.
This edited version of the cover is more truthful.
This from the Randi Weingarten:
In just the last 36 hours, more than 30,000 people have signed our petition demanding that Time magazine apologize for its offensive cover.
Next week, we’ll be delivering every petition we collect to Time’s headquarters in New York. Our goal is that they never again try to make money by attacking educators. First, we need to make sure they hear our message loud and clear. Will you help by sharing the petition and asking your friends and family to sign?
Time’s cover suggests that teachers are a problem that must be smashed. We know this image is far out of step with how Americans view our educators. I hope you’ll share the petition with your friends so we can show Time that people don’t think highly of bashing teachers to sell magazines.
Click here to thunderclap TIME to tell them you want an apology.
And well done to Schools Matter for their message to Time, below:
Sent to Time Magazine, Oct. 23, 2014.
Re: Taking on Teacher Tenure, Time, November 3, 2014
“Unassuming” tycoon David Welch is also unformed. He claims he prefers a world of “concrete facts” but still maintains that the American education system is “failing” because of bad teachers who can’t be fired.
The concrete facts are these: When researchers control for the effects of poverty, American students score near the top of the world on international tests. Our unspectacular (but not horrible) performance on tests is because of our high child poverty rate, about 23%, second highest among 34 economically advanced countries, according to UNICEF. High-scoring countries such as Finland have a child poverty rate of about 5%.
Poverty means, among other things, poor nutrition, lack of health care, and little access to books. All of these have powerful negative effects on school performance. The best teaching in the world has little effect when students are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read.
Our main problem is not teaching quality, unions, or the rules for due process. The main problem is poverty.
Control for poverty: Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13; Bracey, G. 2009. The Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Bracey-Report. Berliner, D. 2011. The Context for Interpreting PISA Results in the USA: Negativism, Chauvinism, Misunderstanding, and the Potential to Distort the Educational Systems of Nations. In Pereyra, M., Kottoff, H-G., & Cowan, R. (Eds.). PISA under examination: Changing knowledge, changing tests, and changing schools. Amsterdam: Sense Publishers. Tienken, C. 2010. Common core state standards: I wonder? Kappa Delta Phi Record 47 (1): 14-17. Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/).
Child Poverty: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre 2012, ‘Measuring Child Poverty: New league tables of child poverty in the world’s rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 10, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.
Feel free to right click, copy and share these memes as far and wide as you wish.
This is a must read:
“This posting is just a brief introduction to something that, for the fabric of our democracy and the successful functioning of our school system, needs to be out in the open. Only some things can be confirmed in this posting – the degree of collusion between the education ministry and Whale Oil has yet to be established and the level of insidiousness.”
Read the whole thing here: The ministry of education and Whale Oil: an introduction.
The government has ignored the overwhelming concerns of New Zealanders in its bid to quash the political independence of the teaching profession.
The Education Amendment Bill has been reported back to the House with a recommendation that it be passed.
The legislation will makes it easier for unqualified and unregistered people to act as teachers in charter schools as well as removing the right of teachers to directly elect their own professional body.
“The government has completely disregarded the overwhelming number of submissions which called on it to allow the new teacher representative body to remain professionally rather than politically driven,” says NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter.
“Instead, once the legislation is passed, the Minister will handpick representatives for the new EDUCANZ body being set up to replace the Teachers’ Council.
“What other professional body has their representatives chosen by the Minister of the day rather than electing their own representatives?”
“This legislation is about ideology and undermining the teaching profession – not about addressing the needs of all New Zealand children and ensuring their right to quality public education.
“The government has also disregarded the views of New Zealanders who have made it clear they don’t want unqualified and unregistered people teaching in our schools.
“This is a major step backwards and will put the education of many children at risk.
“I am sure that New Zealanders will see how this legislation completely contradicts the government’s rhetoric about wanting to improve the quality of education.”
Your choice – actively work to change the direction of these reforms or accept that you are as much to blame as the reformers.
This from HuffingtonPost:
As I watch the education “debate” … I wonder if we have simply lost our minds.
In the cacophony of reform chatter — online programs, charter schools … testing, more testing, accountability … value-added assessments, blaming teachers … blaming unions, blaming parents — one can barely hear the children crying out: “Pay attention to us!”
None of the things on the partial list above will have the slightest effect on the so-called achievement gap or the supposed decline in [our] international education rankings. Every bit of education reform — every think tank remedy proposed by wet-behind-the-ears MBAs, every piece of legislation, every one of these things — is an excuse to continue the unconscionable neglect of our children.
As Pogo wisely noted, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” We did this to our children and our schools.
We did this by choosing to see schools as instructional factories, beginning in the early 20th century.
We did this by swallowing the obscene notion that schools and colleges are businesses and children are consumers.
We did this by believing in the infallibility of free enterprise, by pretending [our country] is a meritocracy, and by ignoring the pernicious effects of unrelenting racism.
We did this by believing that children are widgets and economy of scale is both possible and desirable.
We did this by acting as though reality and the digital representation of reality are the same thing.
We did this by demeaning the teaching profession.
We did this by allowing poverty and despair to shatter families.
We did this by blaming these families for the poverty and despair we inflicted on them.
We did this by allowing school buildings to deteriorate, by removing the most enlivening parts of the school day, by feeding our children junk food.
We did this by failing to properly fund schools…
We did this by handcuffing teachers with idiotic policies, constant test preparation and professional insecurity.
[The] children need our attention, not Pearson’s lousy tests or charter schools’ colorful banners and cute little uniforms that make kids look like management trainees.
[Our] teachers need our support, our admiration, and the freedom to teach and love children.
The truth is that our children need our attention, not political platitudes and more TED talks.
Read the rest of the article here.
I read the letter below with a heavy heart. Mrs Utting was recently widowed when her husband, a teacher aged 37, died of stress-induced heart attack, and here she writes to Mr Gove, your English counterpart.
Mr Utting was a teacher in England, but could just as easily have been in many other countries, including New Zealand, as the same reforms and policies are pushed on teachers worldwide.
I urge you to change tack. The levels of stress and feelings of mistrust regarding government policy are reaching epidemic proportions.
Mrs Utting says:
I should be proud that my husband was a teacher. But right at this moment, I’m not. I’m sorry that he was. Because if he had a different job, he might still be with us.
Teachers love their students and care deeply about doing our jobs well – we want support, not workplace bullying.
29th April 2014
Dear Mr Gove,
I am writing to inform you of the death of Mr Gareth Utting, a teacher of English at a secondary school in Shropshire.
Gareth died at the age of 37 of a massive heart attack. There were a few contributory factors to his death, but looming large was the word ‘stress’. He leaves me a widow with three children, aged fourteen, four and one.
This is not the angry rant of a bereaved person. I haven’t got anywhere near angry yet. I am still reeling with shock and wondering if there was anything I could have done to prevent my husband’s death. When these thoughts beset me, I keep coming back to the fact that I should have done more to help him get out of teaching. And how can that be right, to think that? I love teaching. In the few weeks since Gareth died, I have heard and read so many tributes from his students that attest to the positive impact that a good teacher can make. I should be proud that my husband was a teacher. But right at this moment, I’m not. I’m sorry that he was. Because if he had a different job, he might still be with us.
I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the changes that have hit teachers in the last few years. I qualified as a teacher myself but have been at home raising our young children, so have not been directly involved. But I can tell you what I see around me.
Teachers like Gareth have changed.
Their hopes for the young people in their care have not changed. Neither has their willingness to go the extra mile to help those young people to succeed. But the work-load that they struggle under and the pressures that are applied to them from above have greatly increased. If this led to better education for our children, then I would be supporting these changes. But I don’t see better education. I see good teachers breaking under the load. I see good teachers embittered and weary. I see good teachers leaving the profession. I see good teachers never even entering the profession, for fear of what lies ahead. I see pupils indoctrinated with achievement targets, who are afraid to veer from the curriculum in case it affects their next assessment; pupils for whom ‘knowledge’ is defined by a pass mark and their position within a cohort.
Within this atmosphere, my husband struggled to help his pupils in every way he could. The comments that they have left on social media reflect a teacher-pupil relationship that was honest, helpful and mutually respectful. He taught them English, and they did well at it. But he also taught them about life, and love, and self-esteem. But he did this in spite of, not because of, the current state of the education system.
Gareth is at peace now. But I have some difficult choices to make.
Do I return to a profession that takes so high a toll? When my four-year-old son says he wants to be a teacher, do I smile or try to talk him out of it? When I see Gareth’s colleagues, do I congratulate them for being so amazing, or encourage them to explore other career options?
Mr Gove, I don’t envy you your job. I don’t know the best way to achieve a high standard of education for all pupils, everywhere. But I do know this: People don’t become teachers to be slackers, for the pension or for the name badge.
Here’s an interesting theory of mine that I was discussing recently with my husband. If you took away all external inspection and supervision, all targets and reviews, if teachers were left to themselves to teach what they wanted to teach, the way they wanted to teach it, what do you think would happen?
This is what I think: Every teacher that I know cares deeply about their subject and their students. They would teach marvellously. They would share knowledge and encourage each other. They would deal with problems (including less-than-perfect pupils and teachers) with the professionalism that they possess in spades.
Of course we cannot remove all monitoring of teachers and schools. But it seems to me that you have forgotten this basic fact: Teachers love to teach, and they want to do it well.
I don’t know what I want to ask of you. All I know is that the situation as it stands is wrong. On behalf of all the teachers and pupils out there, I beg you to go back to the drawing-board. Learn from your mistakes. Gain knowledge.
And please don’t send me your condolences.
The changing face of teaching and how the replacement Teachers Council, EDUCANZ, will seal teachers’ fate as “classroom technicians that have to support politically prescribed programmes and data collection” says Dave Kennedy:
The New Zealand Teacher’s Council is the crown entity that is currently the professional and regulatory body for all teachers from early childhood through to most other educational institutions. The NZTC has done some excellent work in developing professional mentoring programmes, developing the Registered Teacher Criteria and maintaining professional standards. It has done this with a relatively limited budget and unlike the Medical Council, which operates independently from the Government, theNZTC has 11 people on the Governing Council, but only 4 are independently elected by the profession, the rest are Ministerial appointees.
Parents and children should be served by professionals who are motivated and driven by the ethics and ideals of the profession and a duty of care that is not corrupted by political ideology. For doctors, the sanctity of their relationship with their patients is paramount and without high levels of confidentiality and trust they would often struggle to treat their patients when a full disclosure of their life-style and medical history is necessary. Teaching and learning should be about meeting the needs of each child based on the professional knowledge of the teacher and parents need the reassurance that their child’s interests come before politically driven expectations. To truly operate as a profession teachers need to have a teachers council that is independent of both the Government and unions.
I find it appalling that we have a Government that is deliberately and dishonestly undermining the teaching profession by suggesting that there is a crisis in teacher quality and discipline and that political measures are needed to solve it. The idea of a teacher using their position to abuse children is every bit as abhorrent for teachers as it is for the general public and yet there is the encouraged perception that the profession had deliberately protected such people and that there is a widespread problem of offending teachers. The facts tell a different story.
Read the rest of the article here
Concerns are coming from all angles about just what EDUCANZ’ functions will be. It looks to many like it’s more groundwork for kneecapping teachers and laying the groundwork for corporatising the school system. As ever, all of this is being done on the sly.
The PPTA have raised serious concerns
In introducing the Education Amendment Bill (No 2) to Parliament, the Education Minister indicated a clear intention of pushing it through prior to the election, presumably in the hope that no one will look too closely at the proposed changes. Submissions close 30 April 2014.
The bill sets out an extensive new role for EDUCANZ which includes:
• Developing new sets of standards (separate criteria for registration and practising certificates and “standards for ongoing practice”). (We don’t know what all this means either but suspect it is connected to the five levels of performance pay that the chairman of the EDUCANZ Transition Board, John Morris, has recently written about.)
• Mandating an audit and moderation process of at least 10% of practising certificates.
• The Teachers Council Code of Ethics, currently an aspirational document reflecting the professional status of teachers, is to be turned into a more directive “Code of Conduct” while the EDUCANZ council develops its own code. The legislation says teachers will be consulted about this new code but, as we have seen so far, that does not mean any account will be taken of their views.
• The EDUCANZ council is supposedly more independent because it will be a statutory authority instead of a crown entity but it will be made up entirely of appointments by the minister of the day and it may not have a single practising teacher on it. There are no elected positions and no union positions. The board will be accountable only to the government of the day not to the profession.
• The registration fees are certain to rise significantly given the range of new tasks for the council.
PPTA is not opposed to the bill’s changes to the council’s discipline and competence provisions or to the role the council has in ensuring all teachers are “fit to teach”. We are, however, totally opposed to the range of unnecessary functions proposed for it as it can only result in substantial increases in the fees charged to teachers.
And big concerns about John Morris
In light of Mr Morris’s recent proclamations in support of performance pay, PPTA decided to write to the Education Minister. This is an except of that letter:
I am writing to express my grave concerns about the appropriateness of John Morris continuing in his role as chair of the Transition Board for the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (“the Transition Board”) in the light of the agenda he has prescribed for it in his publication Teaching Stars – Transforming the Education Profession (“the report”).
On page five of the report, Mr Morris advocates a central role for EDUCANZ in developing and overseeing a complex and highly bureaucratic performance pay system.
Mr Morris makes it clear in the publication that he chairs the Transition Board and fails to distinguish between his official position and personal opinion. He should have been explicit about what the approved goals for EDUCANZ were as distinct from his own personal views because otherwise it looks like he has made an official statement from the Transition Board.
As the Chair of the Transition Board, Mr Morris is required to act consistently with the terms of reference for the Transition Board, which includes a “no surprises” requirement and an obligation that members of the Board act consistently with the objectives and functions of the new body as defined by Cabinet. Mr Morris has failed to meet this requirement and substantially undermined any integrity of the reforms and process to be followed by the Board.
More concerning for me is the contempt that Mr Morris is showing for the 70,000 or so teachers who are going to be expected to fund the operation of his grandiose performance pay scheme. It is unacceptable that before teachers have had an opportunity to comment on the legislation and before the actual board has been formally established, the chairperson of the Transition Board has declared what the role and function of the body is to be. How can teachers have any trust in the process for establishing the new council when the chair of the interim board has revealed an agenda to use the body to introduce performance pay? There has been no consultation or agreement to these changes with the sector.”
Death by a thousand cuts
It seems to me that the government is taking incremental steps along the road to privatisation of the public education system in New Zealand, with lots of small knives hacking away at the same poor beast until it is dead.
Only when it’s too late will people realise what has been lost.
Sources and further reading
http://www.teacherscouncil.co.nz/content/code-ethics-registered-teachers-0 (current code, under the Teachers Council)
Look at the section labelled ‘impartial’. If EDUCANZ frames the new teacher code of conduct in that way, will we be allowed to speak out when we disagree with government policy? Attend protests? Even write to a newspaper or an MP to voice concerns?
I was under the impression New Zealand was a democracy. Ooh, would I even be allowed to imply that it’s not if this was my code of conduct?
And what would happen to me if I did something ‘they’ decided was out of line? And who is ‘they’?
So many questions.
This from Kelvin Smythe:
There have been many potential such cases but this is the one that has come through; the one that has stayed the perverted course –because Marlene Campbell has shown the courage of a lion not to fold. Might I say, I don’t criticise those who did. The pressure to do so has been close to unendurable.
Let me say loud and clear the case against Marlene Campbell is a put-up job, has been engineered, opportunistically taken advantage of in an attempt to crush an outspoken educationist and to put fear into the system.
The general public and the media have been unable to truly grasp what has been going on in education.
Even in education itself there are those who won’t link the dots. They recognise that particular acts of political and bureaucratic bullying and bad faith are occurring, but won’t link them together to recognise that this government in education has been autocratic, anti-democratic, bullying, persistent in lying and distorting, and reliant on fear and propaganda to hold sway. They won’t conceptualise because to do so would challenge them to some kind of action, pose some kind of moral dilemma.
New Zealanders are loath to believe that an agency of state and its political leaders are not acting in good faith – especially in something so precious as education. They have not grasped, are finding it difficult to believe, that in the five years of the National government, terrible things have occurred.
In the advent of a change of government, there needs to be the equivalent of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to heal the past and allow bureaucrats and others to come forward to present some of the terrible things they have been instructed or pressured to do.
Let us see how this works out in the political and bureaucratic persecution of Marlene Campbell.
One important idea to hold onto throughout is that if Marlene has been at fault in any way, that fault has been largely manufactured, in that if it occurred at a school in any other circumstances, it would not cause a blip. In other words, the bureaucracies have gone on a fishing expedition with Marlene Campbell – but pulled in nothing of significance. Yet the financial cost to Marlene Campbell, the children at the school has been hundreds of thousands, then there has been the devastating distraction to the tenor of the school – also the cost to the taxpayer.
I don’t want to get submerged in detail so I’m going to concentrate on key junctures.
Perhaps I should add one more observation before I begin: what sort of principal is Marlene Campbell? Well, how can I say this? She is very modern. You would expect the ministry to be delighted with this, it’s all there knobs and all. Marlene Campbell is clearly willing to listen to policy directions, but just as clearly she wants to do it with a sense of free will –that seems to have been at the centre of why she has been so outspoken – she’s a modern Southern woman who won’t be pushed around. She’s a strong individual.
Key juncture one
In June, 2012, the school’s regular ERO visit took place. On the second day Marlene Campbell was told that ERO intended to use the review to investigate anonymous complaints that had been made against her. Marlene Campbell asked for details so she could respond but was refused them; she was steamrolled, the matter was then simply reported to the ministry recommending an investigation.
Predetermination laid bare,
This was a put-up job. The matter was really a carry-on from the Ann Tolley regime. Hekia Parata and the ERO and ministry bureaucrats, though, proved only too willing to continue this terrible thing.
The moment the Marlene Campbell complaint letter arrived at the ERO, the opportunity was seized by the bureaucracies as manna from heaven – and the dye was cast; the letter was quickly passed onto the ministry, being well practised in what to do.
ERO made no judgements as to the merits of the complaint because that might well have contaminated it with the odd fact or two; the intention, I suggest, being to keep the complaint free of detail so the ministry could provide its own, to be magnified beyond belief, mountained to a molehill, imaginatively reconfigured.
How on earth could anyone respond sensibly to an anonymous complaint, by definition absent of context, expressed in general terms?
This is unconscionable.
Key juncture two
Peter McDonald was appointed limited statutory manager. He did two things.
First, he announced almost immediately and without consultation that the only way to solve the matter was for Marlene Campbell to leave. Just like that.
Predetermination laid bare.
Of course, Marlene Campbell refused.
Secondly, a teacher at the school who had, following due process, been demoted by the board of trustees with the agreement of NZEI, was reappointed to a senior position. Just like that.
Are you flabbergasted?
Then, amazing goings-on for a year and a half.
Key juncture three
McDonald in the year and a half that followed, in sinister mode, tried to find fault in Marlene Campbell’s behaviour; find facts, as I see it, to fit a pre-determined judgement – but failed.
The chairperson of the board of trustees and the board then became totally exasperated at the cost and terribleness of the situation so, to force the ministry’s hand, resigned. In doing this, the chairperson reiterated his utmost confidence in Marlene Campbell, declaring her a most wonderful and exceptional principal.
McDonald seems to have panicked. Out of the blue, he accused Marlene Campbell of a specific instance of bullying. (This was, of course, later utterly disproved.)
He put her on leave.
Four days later his term as LSM ended, to be replaced by a commissioner.
Key juncture four
The appointment of commissioner was the signal for frantic efforts to dig the ministry out of the hole it had dug itself into. That hole, however, only became a concern to the ministry when Marlene Campbell didn’t capitulate.
The commissioner said she would finish the investigatory process before the start of the school year. She failed to do so.
Marlene Campbell was dismissed on March 6, 2014.
This is all so terrible and unjust that it is difficult to take in. So gross have been the actions that some actions also serious, but to a lesser degree, can gain an element of acceptance, which they shouldn’t.
Throughout the one and a half years, the bureaucrats have, almost without exception, refused to provide details of allegations – particularly unreasonable given that on the very few occasions when they have been provided, they were proved to be nonsense. The only charges remaining are unsubstantiated generalisations.
Significantly, in her final report, the commissioner pulled back from some of the allegations previously offered as the reasons for Marlene Campbell’s suspension and made some attempts to correct gross procedural errors.
The ministry case, by these very actions, lies in shreds.
Clearly, the delay in presenting the final report involved a going to and fro about how the report could backtrack without making the LSM, the ministry, and the commissioner look complete idiots. The final report failed, because they do.
Think of the harm all this has done to the fabric of education, indeed, New Zealand society – the tearing at the threads.
It is pure Kafkan in its terribleness – and it’s here in our little country.
The motive was malice; the process travesty; the outcome horrendous.
The politicians sat back, confident that no harm would come their way. Their plan had worked before, why not with this prime target? Send in ERO complete with anonymous letter murmuring mysteriously about matters needing investigation and then quickly hand over to the ministry to enable it to appoint a statutory manager who could proceed to take outrageous advantage of the assumption of good faith in authority. The process from there is well established: the principal muzzled; the statutory manager goes fault fishing; the principal’s position destabilised with occasional releases of information to various directions; the cost of the statutory manager is used to turn the school against the principal; time is prolonged in the hope that new elections would bring in anti-principal trustees; and, failing all that, wait for the huge legal cost to make the principal have to excruciatingly balance fighting for justice against welfare of his or her family.
But with Marlene Campbell things didn’t work out per usual. Hence the current situation. This dogged and brave principal deserves our help and support.
I accuse the ministers and ministry of ‘false accusation and misrepresentation of justice’ from ‘lurid obsession.’ An overstated analogy? I say given the New Zealand context it isn’t, and given the elements of injustice involved, worth pondering. Anyway, if you were Marlene Campbell would you be splitting hairs?
The government and the education bureaucracies have declared deep and unrelenting antipathy to the idea of public education. When is the penny going to drop?
When are we going to unite on enough is enough?
by Kelvin Smythe
The original article is here, along with other educational posts.
If you wish to help Marlene fight this, please give to her legal fees fundraising here.
Read also: https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/marlene-campbell-needs-our-urgent-support-by-kelvin-smythe/
It is astounding the list of wrongs done to the Kiwi education system in a few short years. I’m not exaggerating – it is just beyond belief. To the point that when I try to think of it all, my head hurts and a thousand conflicting issues start fighting for prominence rendering me unable to sort through the spaghetti of information and in need of a big glass of Wild Side feijoa cider.
I live and breathe this stuff, and if I find it bewildering I can only imagine what it does to the average parent or teacher, grandparent or support staff.
So I am truly grateful that Local Bodies today published a post listing the long list of things public education has had thrown at it since National came to power.
This is the list. It needs to be read then discussed with friends, colleagues, family, teachers, students, MPs and the guy on the train. Because this is it – this is what has been thrown at education in a few short years. It is no overstatement to say that New Zealand Public education is under attack.
Take a breath, and read on:
A National led Government was elected and New Zealand’s public education system came under heavy attack:
You can add to the list the change to teacher training that allows teachers to train in 6 weeks in the school holidays and then train on the job in one school without varied practicums, just as Teach For America does to bring in low cost, short term, untrained ‘teachers’. (Coincidentally great for charter schools, especially those running for profit.)
The full Local Bodies article is here. It is well worth sharing and discussing (share the original, not this – the full article is better)
Please be aware that what has already gone on is just the preamble to far more extensive measures getting increasing more about Milton Friedman’s “free market” than about good, equal, free public education for all.
Unless you want NZ to descend into the horrors being seen now in England and the United States, you need to act. How?
- Speak up. Talk about the issues with others – encourage them to think about what’s going on and what it means in the long run; and most importantly,
- Vote. VOTE. Definitely vote. And encourage everyone you know to vote, as well.
Because three more years like this and the list above will look like child’s play.