The more things change

By Dr. Gregory T. Graves, Associate Executive Secretary


Ladies and gentlemen the 2014 Legislative session is here.  During the next 105 or so days elected legislators will meet to decide what your professional life, and to a large extent your personal life, will look like.

These elected officials have much more control than many of you think. How much money you make, how many kids you have in your classroom, what kind of job protections you have, and much more are always debated by these elected officials.

Many educators and everyday citizens believe that legislators have unfettered power; however, lest I remind you that the power is with you the voters.  It is up to you to be involved and make sure your voice, and the voice of your students is heard.

There is an old saying that goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” This is ever-so true regarding the creation of charter schools here in Alabama.

You can rest assured that charter schools will rear their ugly heads again sometime before the legislators go home and start concentrating on getting re-elected.

There is simply too much money at stake for some legislators to line their pockets with corporate money.

We’ve all gone through the litany of what’s wrong with charter schools; no better test scores, locations in strip malls next to adult video and liquor stores, uncertified and unqualified teachers, etc.  This list goes on and on. Yet, the topic of charter schools is still here.

Let me take this opportunity to point out a charter school story that I heard that literally outraged me.

It’s a story that puts a very human face on what charter schools do to educators, and by extension, students.  It’s a story you need to know, and that you need to make sure your legislators know you will not allow to be repeated in Alabama.

Noelle Roni was the principal of Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette, Colorado until this past November.

According to media reports, she had served as principal for eight years and had good performance evaluations.

She was summarily fired, without any cause given and without any due process, because she worked for a charter school, where that is the norm.

The reason for her termination should anger anyone who cares about children.

The school’s lunchroom, like many today, moved away from a cash system to one where parents put money on a child’s account.

Mrs. Roni was notified by a grandmother that the child nutrition manager had taken it upon herself to institute a policy whereby children who did not have sufficient funds in their accounts would not only not receive the regular lunch (they would only receive a cheese sandwich), but the child’s hand would be stamped, marking them in a way easily recognized by their peers and which extended beyond the lunchroom.

What’s more, this was also happening to children who qualified for free lunches, who didn’t have to have money in their account anyway.

Mrs. Roni went to the administration and demanded that the practice be stopped, which it was.  However, this led the child nutrition director to resign in protest.

That, apparently, angered some of the CNP director’s friends in the upper administration of the charter school (above the principal, where all the money goes to cronies of the organizers of a charter school).

They demanded she take responsibility for the CNP director quitting.  She refused and they fired her.

A principal was fired because she was unwilling to stand by and watch kids go hungry and refuse to eat because they did not want the humiliation of being branded.

When anyone says anything bad about tenure or other job protection laws, tell them about this story.

If she had been principal of an Alabama public school, Mrs. Roni would have been entitled to a public hearing in front of a judge.

The specter of that would have likely prevented a school board from acting.  If not, she would have had an opportunity to find out exactly why she was being terminated, and put on a defense, including arguing personal and political reasons.

However, because she worked at a charter school, she got none of that.  The same could happen to you at any time, especially if we get charter schools.

They came hard for your tenure two years ago with the “Students First” Act.

Against long odds and with a lot of hard work, AEA’s lobby team made it livable, where educators retain some protections and due process.  But, make no mistake, those out to destroy public education and public educators, like what happened to Mrs. Roni.

They want to be able to punish and retaliate against anyone who stands up for children or otherwise gets in the way of their for-profit agenda.  Yesterday, it was Noelle Roni.  If you don’t stand up during this legislative session, it could easily be you next November.

As always, together we stand.

Date: 01/18/14
Category: Political

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