Thursday, May 10, 2007

Silly Season - The Game of Professional Musical Chairs

Silly Season has started. And for the past decade, as I've watched this time of year when teaching positions in my county change hands I've compared it to a large game of musical chairs.

In West Virginia, county school districts "post" jobs and teachers "bid" on those jobs. Usually the postings are made available on the county school system's website. Often there is a phone line where you can call and listen to the postings being read. And the postings are faxed out to individual school where they are supposed to be, well, posted on a bulletin board for all staff to see.

This week in my county, eight pages of postings came out. Three pages list teaching jobs that are available for bid. Another couple of pages list coaching positions for next year. A job description or two is attached, I think. And there are paraprofessional job postings for secretarial, custodial, and aide positions.

Postings specify a level of certification the position requires. Employees who want an available position fill out a two-page bid sheet and send it to the central office. Bid sheets are correlated there by position and compared for certification and seniority. If seven teachers bid on a job and one doesn't have the minimum qualifications, the six qualified teachers have their bids compared for seniority and the most senior teacher gets the vacant position. If a teacher is interested in more than one position they can turn in several bid sheets and rank them in order of preference.

How is that musical chairs?

  1. A teacher we'll call Teacher One at a school we'll call School A is tired of teaching first graders and doesn't really get along with the principal there. He or She turns in bid sheets on a few jobs and gets one. Now their position is vacant.
  2. In a few weeks jobs are posted again. Teacher Two gets the first grade position at School A; Teacher One is at School B now and sits out this round; and now there is a vacancy at School C (where Teacher Two used to work).
  3. Jobs are posted again and it is now summer. Teacher Seven gets the job at School C. She bid on that job because it is a shorter drive from where she lives and her life has changed recently to make that more important to her after five years at School F. Her old job at School F is vacant now.
  4. Teacher One finds out that there is a job at School F. Who would have dreamed? School F is small and has very little turn over in staff. She submits a bid sheet and, because of her seniority, moves a second time during Silly Season. Now the job at School B is vacant again.
And it goes on and on. Teachers with a year or two of seniority bid on everything, eventually get jobs they don't really want, and bid on better jobs as those become available. Sometimes they get the better job.

Does the system work? That depends. If principals do their job and evaluate poor teachers out of the system, then the annual game of music chairs just serves to allow teachers the freedom to find teaching positions they enjoy more. If principals don't do their jobs in the area of teacher evaluations, the annual game of musical chairs allows a handful of poor quality teachers to move from position to position and start over with a clean professional slate at a new school.

The irony is that Teacher One may occasionally end up back at School A - teaching first grade again next year...

No comments: