And then there was meritocracy. When then-State Education Commissioner Peter McWalters ordered Providence, Rhode Island to abandon seniority hiring and firing practices in that city's schools, we applauded. Now, his replacement, Deborah Gist, has completed the policy's pass to Providence supe, Tom Brady. Though the Providence Teachers Union (PTU) seems poised to block the end zone with a suit for breach of contract, six schools in the Renaissance City are already interviewing teaching candidates. McWalters thought, and Gist agrees, that seniority policies were preventing schools from matching teachers to schools that were the best fit. But PTU president Steve Smith says, "We want experience to count for something. This is all about control. We want a partnership." Well, he's right about control, since the PTU just lost quite a bit of it; the new policies basically negate the union contract. But as for experience and partnership, both are accounted for: The interview and hiring process will include a panel of teachers, school leaders (i.e., a department head), and the principal, and require uniform procedures that discourage favoritism. Since the practice of hiring candidates based on their merits was so foreign, the committees were trained extensively by The New Teacher Project. Likewise, teacher-applicants were so unfamiliar with having to demonstrate their worth to get a job that the district held cover-letter-writing and resume-formatting seminars. And teachers are lining up around the block for interviews. Sounds like Superintendent Tom Brady is having a good preseason.
"Providence schools implement new approach to hiring," by Linda Borg, Providence Journal, July 13, 2009