The Boston City Council backed legislation to reform public school teacher hiring and evaluation. The vote at Wednesday's council meeting urged the Legislature to support a Senate Bill that would change teacher seniority rules.
Boston City Councilor At-Large John Connolly asked his colleagues to support the legislation and put pressure on the State House.
"What this legislation does is essentially this bill is to tie hiring decisions to teacher evaluations and removes seniority as the controlling factor in hiring. It does not remove seniority as a factor in hiring, it removes it as the controlling factor," said Connolly, who introduced a new City Council resolution draft to support the bill, after presenting an initial draft in recent weeks.
"This does not eradicate seniority, it just means seniority is not the end-all, be-all in hiring of teachers. Seniority becomes a tiebreaker after evaluation," said Connolly, chairman of the council's Education Committee.
The City Council voted 8-5 to support the resolution, which will be sent to the State House—particularly the Boston delegation—members of the Education Committee, speaker of the house, and Senate president.
Saying the legislation is controversial, Connolly said the new draft of the bill was supported by the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Mayor Thomas Menino
The bill would also provide a $13-million appropriation used to train evaluators. Connolly said unions opposed this part of the measure. Union leaders are wary of trainers who haven't themselves been trained by union-approved personnel, said Connolly.
The Boston Teachers Union did not respond to an initial request for comment. Connolly said in the meeting that the union doesn't support the bill. Several teachers recently testified they wanted changes to the system.
If the bill is not signed by Governor Deval Patrick by July 3, it would become a ballot initiative in the fall.
Said Connolly, "I believe in seniority being used as a tool to keep the best teachers in the classroom...This legislation is very simple: We hire teachers on evaluations and train our evaluators, and require data and reporting to know it’s done in a fair manner. And put that ahead of seniority and use seniority as a tiebreaker. So if you’re a teacher of 25 years you will not lose your job."
Possibly the poster child for needing teacher hiring reform is 2012 Teacher of Year Adam Gray. After teaching for five years in South Boston's Monument High School, Gray was laid off and told he didn't have enough seniority. He now works for an exam school. The layoff came just two weeks after Gray won the teaching award.
Said Connolly, "Every year we lose hundreds of provisional teachers, not because of performance, but because they’re provisional. We placed more than 200 teachers in excess pool to schools, so schools didn’t choose those teachers."