Monday, July 7, 2008

A question for BCPSS employees

After reading a comment on Inside Ed here (it always seems I start my posts this way...) I'm confused about how things work in the BCPSS. The comment was about many teachers receiving non-renewal letters because they weren't certified when in fact they were certified, but that North Ave. hadn't processed the paperwork in over a year.

My question is about the management responsibilities in BCPSS. The structure seems similar to my corporation's in that there are local leaders (in BCPSS the department heads, assistant principals, principals) and corporate leaders (North Ave. staff). We also have training requirements that come down from corporate. What's different is that our local leadership helps us meet corporate requirements. Let me make up an example to illustrate what I mean. Say we need to have ESD (electro-static discharge) training to continue to test boxes and meet our quality procedures. This training might be done on-line. Let's say the system doesn't record me finishing my training, even though I did it (perhaps a computer glitch). I would talk to my boss (or maybe my boss's boss) and let them deal with it. They've got schedules that count on me being able to test boxes, so they will make sure that any problems get fixed before my certification goes up. Also, if the system didn't work for me, there are probably other people in the same situation. It's more efficient for a local leader to fix the problem once than for each lower level person to individually work on the problem. Wouldn't the school's administration feel the same way about teachers being terminated for not getting certified when in fact they were certified?

Updated 7/15

From the comments being posted, I guess I wasn't being clear. I think that a big part of the problem in the situation of certifications falling through the cracks is that the school administration isn't standing up for their people the way that a good boss should. I'm not saying that HR isn't messed up in this situation, but if your principal values you as a teacher they ought to go to bat for you in this situation. They are higher up the food-chain and they should have more clout. If they're unwilling to use some of their influence standing up for their staff then I would be more angry with them then the faceless bureaucrats of HR.


  1. No, there is no such support system. Principals do not get involved in the certification process. HR is the worst run office in the school system. Paper work is routinely lost, transcripts are misplaced and the certification office is woefully understaffed and is unresponsive to teacher’s requests for information. It is not uncommon for teachers to receive notification that their certificates are due for renewal in 90 days when in fact they have lapsed. Many teachers call to ask about their certification status only to be told that the paper work is a pile and that the office staff is working hard to process the needed forms.

    Many reforms are needed in the school system but one of the greatest is the HR department. If there was a place where zero basing would be a good idea - it is here.

  2. This is a good question for the school board and powers that be. While they are everyone's favorite punching bag, the BTU and teachers have no control over this process.

  3. The bottom line is that the BCPSS has rarely cared about teachers (and subsequently the kids, because if teachers feel respected, they will be better at their job). At least that's been my experience for 12 years, although it is worse than I have ever seen it this year.

    HR is there to deal with teacher concerns, so of course it is the last department to be overhauled under this administration that has made it clear that all it cares about are the kids. But caring about the kids means you have to get them the best teachers, and you have to retain good teachers by handling their concerns with dignity, accuracy, and respect. This doesn't happen, and that's one of the MANY reasons why the BCPSS is a revolving door for teachers (good ones, at least).

    According to their actions this past year, Dr Alonso and the Board do NOT care about this correlation between teacher retention and quality & student achievement -- it is cheaper for them to run a revolving door for new, wide-eyed teachers just out of college who are cheaper than experienced, highly-qualified teachers with advanced certifications and degrees. And maybe the administration thinks that new, unjaded, energetic college grads are just better -- who knows. But many of the recent policy changes made by this new administration make it very plain that teacher retention is not a priority -- neither is handling a human resources department accurately or efficiently.

  4. I have been in torment ever since I received my letter from N.A terminating me from the system. I had to go out for nearly a year due to illness. A large part of the illness was caused by the ill treatment from the well educated teachers of Baltimore City schools! I would not have stayed if it had not been my concern for the children of this city. Blood sweat and tears, I took the tests, the classes but my timing was not fast enough for NA! How many long term substitute teachers do you have? A Lot! I am not surprised by the clause in your contract baring teachers from suing NA!
    Everything is put on the shoulders of the teacher. If there were strong dependable capable intelligent and principally certified principals, we would have a more responsible, cohesive collegiate school system!


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