Offshore

This is a destructive pathology. I thought teachers wanted to be treated like professionals (and I think they should be). Well, in other professions some perks for a job well done are commonplace as are retreats in places besides cafeterias – and this apparently was not done with public money. Rather than begrudge the KIPP teachers who got a trip to the islands for a retreat, shouldn’t teachers around the country be saying, “hey, forget the Bahamas, why isn’t our school district leadership doing a damn thing to recognize how hard we work?”

Update: Lively debate in the comments below. But, before everyone jumps to conclusions about what a sweatshop this is and how the teachers at this school need a union it’s worth pointing out that they are UFT.

15 thoughts on “Offshore

  1. Dewey

    NYC Educator’s column is infuriating and frankly it is profoundly anti-teacher. Those teachers at KIPP work their butts off and get amazing results for their kids. They deserve a trip to the Bahamas and more. The rhetoric of “five days in the Bahamas on the taxpayers’ dime” implies that these teachers are like corrupt politicians being wined and dined by lobbyists. That is just plain insulting.

    A much more accurate comparison is to an executive who has to work crazy hours, but is extremely productive and then is given a reward at the end of the year. Or to a professor who attends a conference of other outstanding thinkers at an exotic location. These kind of perks are exactly the way that high-performance industries extend status to their employees. Increasing the status of teachers ought to be at the top of the school reform agenda.

    Instead some would prefer that we demand little in the way of performance, offer little in the way of rewards, and maintain that endless hours of complete-fluff inservices constitute treating someone like a professional.

    If the teachers at KIPP prefered the “professional environment” in a typical district school, they would be teaching at one. But like most of us they realize that actually most district schools do anything, but treat teachers like professionals. KIPP is one place that has taken some modest steps toward changing that.

    NYC educator, if your school produced results like KIPP, I’d want you to be given a trip to the Bahamas also. Until then, I’d prefer that you not assault the character of a group of outstanding educators, who deserve that trip and more.

  2. NYC Educator

    Actually, I’d characterize KIPP’s treatment of teachers as awful, and a five-day trip to wherever as very poor compensation for six day weeks and being on call the rest of the week. While it’s true workaholic executives may keep such hours, it’s also true KIPP teachers aren’t remotely compensated as they are.

    A fair salary would be a lot better than a few days at the end of the year. And according to the teacher interviewed in the article, it was not much of a vacation:

    Math teacher Frank Corcoran, who attended a foray this year to the Dominican Republic, said formal meetings made up about 40 percent of the trip, but informal school-related chats dominated the spare time.

    The question of whether or not it was done with public money is open, in fact, and the article you cite states the following:

    Although officials at the charter school told auditors the trips in 2005 and 2006 were funded by surplus funds from private and not public sources, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said documentation was lacking to support those claims.

    I regret you feel the need to characterize my point of view as “destructive pathology.” And I regret you think I’d “begrudge the KIPP teachers,” as they are certainly not my target, nor that of the state audit that uncovered this. While KIPP bigwigs spend their time globe-hopping, NY State Comptroller Thomas diNapoli’s refort can be found here.

    It finds a pattern of funny business with KIPP, including:

    * lack of documentation of criminal background checks for seven employees at the school;
    * an unclear policy regarding the competitive bidding process that resulted in the awarding of four contracts totaling in $181,584 without the benefit of competition;
    * no written policies and procedures to determine and approve salary increases;
    * missing or incomplete overtime records;
    * no system to track employees’ sick or personal leave accruals; and
    * no written policies and procedures or Board approval for employee bonus and stipend pay.

    KIPP’s got a long way to go to “recognize how hard” its employees work.

  3. reality-based educator

    Eduwonk, how do you know the vacation trips weren’t taken with public money? The state comptroller’s report found that “auditors could not determine if this was the case because donated funds were not accounted for separately from state aid.” Sounds to me like you are saying the trips weren’t taken with public money because you want to believe it, not because you have any evidence to prove it.

    In fact, KIPP Academy Charter School was cited again and again for lack of documentation. Again, I quote from the report:

    * lack of documentation of criminal background checks for seven employees at the school;
    * an unclear policy regarding the competitive bidding process that resulted in the awarding of four contracts totaling in $181,584 without the benefit of competition;
    * no written policies and procedures to determine and approve salary increases;
    * missing or incomplete overtime records;
    * no system to track employees’ sick or personal leave accruals; and
    * no written policies and procedures or Board approval for employee bonus and stipend pay.

    The most troubling of the findings was that KIPP could not produce criminal background checks for 28% of their employees. How’d you like to send your kid to a school where 28% of the employees may or may not have been checked for criminal records?

    Come on, Eduwonk, I know you want to always look on the bright side of KIPP, but when the people running the school are found wanting (and if you read the report from DiNapoli you will know they were), admit it. Otherwise you undercut your own credibility and become nothing more than a shill.

  4. Pissed Off

    Teachers like NYC Ed work their butts off every day. The results in Ed’s school are as good as the results in any Kipp school and the teachers don’t work weekends unless they are paid for it.

    A trip to the Bahamas or DR is not fair compensation for the work they do.

  5. Anonymous

    “If KIPP is such a sweatshop then why do so many people want to teach there?”

    Better yet, ask why so many people leave there? Do any checking on turnover rates?

  6. Anonymous

    Teachers can choose to teach in KIPP schools or district schools. Most teachers love it in the KIPP schools, and even those who leave NEVER, ever, go back to the district. That’s because it’s way better teaching at KIPP than at any district school.

    What NYC Educator doesn’t realize is that the administration and the teachers at KIPP schools are on the same team. There is not a very distinct line between the two positions, as teachers have a lot of leadership responsibilities. It’s not like some administrator sitting in a corner office decided to enslave the teachers all year and then take them to the Bahamas to try to make them feel better about their long hours. Rather, many decisions are made jointly and almost all are made with teacher input. This is how good schools are run, but NYC Educator is so stuck in the district paradigm that he can’t see excellence when it does happen.

    This ridiculous distraction is such an incredible waste of time and energy – I hope KIPP officials and teachers aren’t losing a second of sleep over it. NYC Educator, like all the KIPP haters, derides anything that makes him look bad for his school not doing as well. If the teachers work long hours, they are being mistreated by The Man; if they get vacations in the Bahamas, they are being treated too well and something shady is afoot; if they get good results it’s because they get the best kids (not because of those long hours they’re forced to work, of course); if they have sloppy bookkeeping it’s because they are evil profiteers (not because they don’t waste all kinds of money on countless secretaries and administrators like the district does); or if they get good results, it’s because all their bad students leave (despite evidence to the contrary and lower mobility than the district schools).

    The fact is, the KIPP haters (and haters of other charter schools) will exist forever, no matter how much evidence exists to counter their claims. They just hate the idea that working a little harder will make them better teachers, too.

  7. Schoolgal

    My nephew works for a Wall Street firm.
    Last year the boss took them to Vale on his private jet. Work or discussing work was forbidden.

    There is a time to work, and a time to play. It’s unfair to dangle paradise in front of a hard worker and tell them they can only spend part of the day enjoying it. A reward should be a reward. If you want real staff development, take them to a casino where you can have meetings during the day and fun at night as most businesses do.

    As for you being anti-teacher, what a disgrace. If a person can’t make a good argument, let’s go to name calling. You have always defended teachers, and defended Eduwonk even when you disagreed with them.

    I think Eduwonk owes you a personal apology for their disparaging you and your post. (It’s so Leo) Your post used an article and quoted the article. KIPP’s accounting is under investigation, and you had every right to let the masses know.

    btw, our district used to take the science teachers to the Hall of Science for staff development until the powers that be took that funding away. They also took away MERC,(located in all 5 boroughs) a one-day science staff development for all city teachers. It was a day filled with exciting ways to incorporate science into all aspects of the curriculum and still be “hands on”. It was fun and informative at the same time and we left with materials. We had that program for so many years until Klein dumped it. Now he is once again putting money into science. This is a guy who looks at bottom line rather than the actual programs.

    My point is it’s unfair to put NYCEd down for the type of staff development NYC educators get. It deflects from the fact that KIPP is not only using funds in a way that needs to be investigated, but that those KIPP teachers should have been rewarded with an actual vacation, but weren’t.

  8. NYC Educator

    NYC Educator, like all the KIPP haters, derides anything that makes him look bad for his school not doing as well.

    Thank you for your comment

    One serious disadvantage of discussing topics about which you know nothing is you’re almost certain to make errors. As it happens, my school is one of the very best regular high schools in the city, and our test results are consistently excellent.

    They just hate the idea that working a little harder will make them better teachers, too.

    As for the quality of my job performance, another topic about which you know nothing whatsoever, I’d prefer to rely on the impressions of those who’ve actually seen me teach. Oddly, their impressions vary wildly from yours.

    I’d add also, colorful though your forays into mind reading may be, they’re not nearly as accurate as you may think.

  9. reality-based educator

    Thanks for the update, EW, but you have still not retracted your statement that the trips were taken with private money.

    The state audit found that the KIPP documentation was so piss-poor that it couldn’t be determined how the trips were paid for.

    Instead of trying to change the subject, why don’t you address your erroneous statement and/or fabrication in the original post?

    For that matter, why don’t you address that KIPP Academy couldn’t provide documentation for criminal background checks for 28% of their staff?

  10. allen

    > As it happens, my school is one of the very best regular high schools in the city, and our test results are consistently excellent.

    I suppose there’s documentation to prove that then? Documentation that’d satisfy the objective, politically pure state controller?

    Oh, and leave us not forget that where there’s a “very best regular high school(s) in the city” there’s also a very worst high school in the city. Got any thoughts on what ought to be done about it and how many kids lives ought to be squandered before whatever “it” is gets done?

    > As for the quality of my job performance, another topic about which you know nothing whatsoever, I’d prefer to rely on the impressions of those who’ve actually seen me teach.

    Another, albeit unintentional, vote for charters. What do you think drives parents to take their kids out of the convenient, default school but their impressions of how lousy they are and their impressions of how good the KIPP schools are?

    > I’d add also, colorful though your forays into mind reading may be, they’re not nearly as accurate as you may think.

    Har! Another thoughtful, well-reasoned argument in favor of the traditional public education system.

  11. NYC Educator

    Allen,

    The poster addressed my school in particular, and that’s what I was responding to. I’m afraid I will remain anonymous, and so will my school. You may believe me or not, as you wish, but I was referring to our NY State Regents results, which are certainly verifiable.

    Whether or not I agree with you, I have no objection to your opinions. I have objections when people tell me what my opinions are, as that poster did repeatedly.

  12. Dewey

    Dear NYCEducator,

    Since you personally called me out both on this comments page and in your blog (I was that “very first commenter” on this post) I thought I would return the favor here: http://thecommonschool.blogspot.com/

    You should feel honored; I resurrected a dead blog purely for the purpose of explaining why you are wrong both about my comment and about KIPP.

  13. reality-based educator

    Still waiting for you to either retract or defend with evidence your statement that the KIPP trips were taken with donated money, EW. The audit found that the KIPP documentation was so poor that the state couldn’t be certain where the money was from. Do you have information that contradicts the state audit or do you not accept the validity of the audit?

    Why can’t you be a responsible adult, EW, and either admit you were wrong (and BTW, also slandered NYC Educator) or show us the evidence that you were right?

  14. Anonymous

    The KIPP schools have a lot of private funders who donate money for unrestricted uses. Millions of dollars of such money each year. That it wasn’t accounted for doesn’t make it untrue that they spent private money on the trips. And you know what, even if they did spend public money on the trip, WHO CARES? Their school is amazing, their kids do very well, and if they’ve somehow found a model so efficient that they can afford to take their teachers on vacations while providing an excellent education, why should we stop them from rewarding their hardworking teachers?

    The unfortunate thing is that now that this hack of a comptroller has put them on his political agenda, KIPP will undoubtedly be tempted to spend their money like the district does, on extra accountants and secretaries, rather than on rewards for some of our city’s highest-performing educators. You anti-KIPP folks are tremendously anti-teacher.

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