New Castle News

New Castle

February 8, 2013

Our Opinion: New Castle teachers should revisit stance on training grant

NEW CASTLE — Normally, we would expect professionals to leap at the opportunity for new training designed to assist with upcoming challenges.

So we were more than a little surprised to learn the teachers union in the New Castle schools is refusing to cooperate with a grant designed to aid training of educators in the district.

The funding, nearly $150,000, is part of the federal Race to the Top education program that New Castle qualified for. The grant is intended to assist with training and evaluating teachers.

Apparently, the training is part of the program. We also note Pennsylvania is beefing up its teacher evaluation system in the coming years. You would think educators would be glad for some assistance in dealing with such changes.

But the city’s teachers said no thanks, which is causing some consternation among the district’s administration. Based on comments in the New Castle News from assistant superintendent Terence P. Meehan, the idea teachers would refuse to participate was a notion they never considered.

Yet some of the comments made by Don Runyon, president of the New Castle Federation of Teachers, may offer underlying insight. While Runyon indicated teachers objected to some of aspects of the training, in that it supposedly dealt with student matters beyond the control of educators, something else seems to be bothering them.

And that’s the fact the district went after this grant without consulting teachers beforehand. We detect a little turf tussle here.

Intellectually, we can understand teachers wanting to be involved in this grant effort from the start. They may have a legitimate beef in that regard. That’s something district administrators ought to file away for future reference.

But we also get the sense the position of the teachers is akin to cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. By refusing to participate in this grant, we suspect the big losers could be the teachers themselves.

We often hear complaints, from a variety of sources inside and outside of education, about the hoops teachers must jump through while contending with standardized tests and other bureaucratic changes involving classroom activities.

We sympathize with much of this. But at the same time, we see there are problems that need to be addressed. And one of these is in the field of teacher evaluations, where virtually all educators in the commonwealth receive routine approval.

New rules are intended to tighten this process, and teachers must contend with it. For this reason alone, we think New Castle’s educators need to rethink their position and work with the administration to hammer out any real differences.

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