Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Perspective on the Superintendent--Part Four and a Half

It had to happen. Like Doctor Who, when Christopher Eccleston would not return for the 50th anniversary special but they needed someone for the role, they had to bring in John Hurt. But what number would he be? They had been proceeding by whole numbers, but in the timeline, Hurt had to come between #8 and #9. The producers finessed the issue by not assigning a number at all. The math worked until ... OK, nerd moment over.

I left out something important. It was going to happen as people commented on the Vitti years and their feelings about the superintendent. So here is part four point 5: inserted somewhere in the series where it should go.

Nikolai Vitti embraced reform ideas and the organizations that embraced him. Among his legacy, he expanded the use of Teach for America (TFA) in the district and gave TNTP (The New Teacher Project, although they now eschew the name in favor of the initials only) an influence over hiring and professional development that has mostly gone unnoticed.

In particular, he worked with JPEF and their backers to design the QEA program such that one half of the teachers would be traditionally certificated personnel and the other half would come from TFA. The district entered into a contract with TFA to hire 100 teachers a year from the organization at a finders fee that ran about $5000 each. (If I am in error here, because I am proceeding from memory, please correct me.)

Under Vitti, TNTP has burrowed deeply into the district. They are the people who say it takes 11 hires to replace a great teacher, which implies that there also has to be 10 fires. Interpret that with the recent comment from the superintendent that he too once regarded teachers as easily replaceable widgets.

TNTP drives professional development in the district. If there was a true feedback loop from teachers to the superintendent, he would learn that teachers, including the strongest cheerleaders he has among the ranks, universally despise the virtual PD provided under the leadership of his Assistant Superintendent for Strategic Planning, a new position and a new person to the district he plucked from the ranks of TNTP.

Most teachers would say that there has not been a reform idea he has rejected.