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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Age and Seniority Are Factors in Re-assignments of Teachers in Boston

 Silent no more: Boston's ‘unwanted’ educators rip school administrators

Kids lose on bottom line

‘EDUCATION AS BUSINESS’: Aytul Farquharson, left, a 15-year music teacher with degrees from Harvard and
Berklee, and Andrea Devine, right, a 14-year ESL teacher, say they’ve been shunted aside in Boston Public Schools
for younger teachers with smaller salaries.

Boston teachers who are unwanted by principals or in limbo because of budget cuts say they’ve been cast aside just to save money, 
and to make way for 
cheaper, more malleable newcomers.
“If you see education as a business, this is the right route to go. But if you 
see this as the future of 
our children, it is dead wrong,” Aytul Farquharson, a 15-year music teacher with degrees from Harvard and Berklee, said yesterday in an exclusive interview with the Herald.
“They’re looking at, ‘OK, I can get a $48,000 first-year teacher, I don’t need the teacher to be from Harvard, Berklee,’” said Farquharson, who was cut from her school last year and 
relegated to “co-teacher” duties in another classroom.
The Herald sat down with three teachers from the controversial unwanted pool. They are among the 72 teachers, totaling some $6 million in salaries, who lost their positions due to budget cuts or school closings or when principals had broad discretion over who to keep and who to scrap. They are now assigned as co-teachers in other people’s classrooms.
They fear they’ve been branded subpar through no fault of their own and have seen their professional prospects damaged.
“They’re not looking at your performance as a great teacher, they’re looking at the dollars beside your name,” said Denise, a 20-plus-year visual arts teacher who asked that her last name not be used. As a co-teacher, she works on writing and reading skills with students who speak foreign languages.
Andrea Devine, a 14-year
 ESL instructor, said she is convinced money was a motive after her former school was declared a
“turnaround school,” mean-
ing all of its 25 or so teachers were laid off.
“(The principal) kept four teachers, all of them very young, and didn’t rehire any of the rest of us,” Devine said. “The whole experience really made me feel very broken and crushed.”
The three teachers stressed they do not have issues with principals in the schools they are currently assigned to.
Records obtained by the Herald show more than 75 percent of the teachers in the pool are 50 or older, with an average age of 54. Union officials say the teachers are also among the highest earners in the district because of their experience and advanced 
degrees; all three teachers who spoke to the Herald make in the $100,000 
A Boston Public Schools spokeswoman said the claims about financial mot­ives are “absolutely not true,” and that the aim of the new hiring system is to let principals hire who they want and let teachers pick their schools.
As of last year, teachers no longer need seniority to interview for job openings.
Teachers who aren’t picked up but have three years’ experience are guaranteed a classroom under state tenure law. Those 
assigned to “co-teacher” duties are encouraged to acquire new skills.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh has said the city can’t sustain “paying for teachers that aren’t in classrooms.”
The city is working to secure private money to cover their salaries in the coming years.
The end result, the teachers said, is a system that gives principals incentive to hire cheap new teachers with a chance of also 
being assigned a co-teacher whose hefty salary is not carried on their books.
“You’re telling them if they say no, they might end up with a second teacher for free, and the system is willing to sacrifice tremendous experience,” said Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman, who said the district is contractually barred from placing teachers who fare poorly on evaluations into the pool.