By Greg Sampson
Very detailed analysis. I agree with most of what you're saying, but my perspective as an 8 year middle school math teacher:
1. Relaxation of the learning schedules: That will turn out to be for the 2012-13 school year only. Early on his disdain for EPD and EPD's district administration was clear. He did not respect their leadership and work and was only too willing to scrap it to earn points with school-based personnel. Then there was the problem that most schools were several weeks behind anyway. In January, his new leadership called school instructional coaches into a meeting to get everyone on recommended, not mandatory, revised learning schedules to get caught up. One thing was made clear: all the benchmarks had to be covered by FCAT.
The new year: We have "curriculum guides," which is simply the new name for learning schedules. I pity whoever gets behind, because there is a curriculum guide assessment at the end of each quarter, which will not be delayed because a teacher is behind. Expect a lot of complaining by mid-October.
But this is the price of reducing testing. Because we have eliminated the Sept/Dec/March benchmark tests, we have to have something to report to the Department of Education. Therefore, there will be no flexibility on the timing of the administration.
2. Teacher's Academy: the buzz phrase on Prudential Drive is that "the way of work has changed." The new curriculum guides, the Iowa basic and DRA testing for Reading (new) and the iReady testing for math (new)--uh-oh, did you just realize we haven't reduced testing as much as advertised?--the change in remedial reading and math classes (now called "enrichment"), the move to Common Core standards, which begins this fall as FLDOE has issued new course descriptions which put us on Common Core + whatever FCAT 2.0 we need to teach because CCSS moved it or dropped it, a huge emphasis on everyone keeping a written journal of reflections on lessons taught, oh, the list goes on, means pretty much they need a week to inform teachers about it all. I'm glad they are paying us the "training wage" of $10/hr, although I would have preferred my salary rate. And yes, it is $10/hr. The days of 6 hours training are gone. There are 7.5 hours on the daily agenda, with .5 hour for lunch. That's why they're telling everyone to bring a sack lunch from home.
Expect those who don't go to one of the 3 Academies to begin complaining by Labor Day about all the changes, expectations, and how they are overwhelmed.
BTW, about that gaffe: Dr. Vitti wants all communications under his name. Many of the emails we are receiving were not written by him, perhaps not read by him before they were sent. That is why we are getting corrections and retractions one hour to two days later.
3. Discipline: it is a mixed bag. The serial bully on the class trip was ridiculous, but I doubt he was aware of it. He has been swift to rectify problems. He did demote the Baldwin principal when the fight videos surfaced, and was already sending people out to address the problem before. He also sent an AP from Forrest who was a known strict displinarian.
I am giving him the benefit of the doubt, for now, because he has stated that he sees a problem with discipline in that it is inconsistently applied from administrator to administrator and school to school. Plus he also said about the Baldwin situation that one of the problems was that teachers were writing referrals and no action was taken. This is a lingering wound from the EPD era, in which administrators were pressured into drastically reducing the number of referrals entered into the system. Then the Board and super would brag about the huge improvement. Yet every teacher knew the tricks being played: not entering referrals, APs refusing to accept referrals, etc.
One last comment on the serial bully: My principal would not have allowed it. He would have told the parents that she would not go. What really surprised me was how these schools got to take those trips since Vitti put out the word that no school could take a class trip to an Orlando theme park, not even on Saturday. All the trips at my school were cancelled. Someone told me recently that a few schools had already paid, so they were given permission.