Fisher: TFT plan for teacher-led school may be delayed until as late as MarchWritten by Justin R. Kalmes | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The timeline for a plan to transform one of Toledo Public Schools’ poorest and lowest-performing elementary buildings into a teacher-led academy by the next academic year may be too aggressive to
implement necessary legal and contractual changes to meet the proposal’s start date, one school board member said.
Darlene Fisher, of the five-member TPS Board of Education, said the TFT plan, which was designed by the Toledo Federation of Teachers (TFT) and presented to the board at its Nov. 27 meeting, might have to wait until as late as March before necessary steps are taken to make it viable.
The plan calls for one of the district’s high-poverty elementary schools that has failed to meet state and federal academic performance standards to be turned into a teacher-led academy that operates using research-based instructional and support strategies.
The school, which the TFT proposes to call the Gaining Educational Mastery (GEM) Academy, would operate with two lead teachers — one for instruction; one for operations — instead of a principal.
Because state law requires administrative leadership in public schools and the TPS contract with the Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel (TAAP) states there must be a principal in each school, the district would have to ask the Ohio Department of Education for a waiver and the TAAP to renegotiate its agreement, Fisher said. Doing so might be feasible, she said, but would take more time than what the TFT proposal needs to be implemented next fall.
“In past situations, when we went to the state for waivers, we didn’t receive them,” Fisher said. “That certainly offsets the timeline that [the TFT] presented.”
Francine Lawrence, president of the TFT, unveiled the plan to members of the media at a news conference Nov. 27 just hours before the board’s meeting that evening. The proposal’s implementation timeline called for board endorsement that night. It also stated the GEM Academy’s lead teachers be selected by Dec. 13. Lawrence said Chase, Fulton and Pickett elementary schools were likely GEM Academy Candidates, although other high-poverty, low-performing schools would be considered.
Fisher said the board doesn’t expect to have TPS Superintendent John Foley’s report regarding the plan’s legality and expected cost until Dec. 18, the date of its next regular meeting. Fisher said the district’s contracts with its bargaining units expire March 31.
Getting a waiver from the state won’t be the only hurdle the board needs to jump should it eventually endorse the TFT’s proposal. David McClellan, president of the TAAP, said he would adamantly oppose any plan that would call for a building with no principal. He said neither Lawrence nor any other representative of the TFT had presented him with the GEM Academy proposal before Lawrence went public with it Nov. 27.
McClellan questioned why the proposal was not first given to the district’s school improvement committee, which he and Lawrence both sit on, because that panel exists specifically to address issues such as those mentioned in the TFT plan.
“This is not a team effort since [Lawrence] has chose not to discuss it with our school improvement team,” McClellan said. “If she was serious about school reform, she would discuss [the plan] with the school improvement committee and not grandstand.”
McClellan said he would file an unfair labor practice claim if the board acts unilaterally on the plan.
Board member Robert Torres, like Fisher, said he supports the motivation behind the TFT’s proposal and commends its accountability benchmarks. According to the proposal, the school would meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
“Anything we do that will hold us accountable to achieving results is something I will favor,” Torres said.
Until the board receives Foley’s analysis of how the TFT proposal will affect district expenses and contracts, Torres said he would refrain from taking a stance on the plan.
Despite the obstacles the plan faces, Lawrence said she was confident the GEM Academy would become a reality next fall.
“I look at this as happening in August,” she said.