Op-Ed: ‘Serious Questions’ Raised by Non-Renewal of Teacher, Says FLEA Treasurer
A statement from the treasurer of the Fort Lee Education Association, Howard Lipoff.
Editor’s Note: The following is the text of a statement made by Howard Lipoff, treasurer of the Fort Lee Education Association (FLEA), to the Fort Lee Board of Education Monday, May 7, at the BOE's regular business meeting. Lipoff provided the statement to Patch to publish as an letter to the editor:
My name is Howard Lipoff and I am the treasurer of the Fort Lee Education Association. I addressed this board a year ago and expressed my concern when teachers at the high school were terminated abruptly after three years of excellent reviews. Now, a similar situation has occurred at the middle school. These decisions have caused great damage to the Fort Lee School District and I urge the board to take actions to rectify the situation tonight.
When teachers who have received excellent evaluations and have earned the respect of colleagues and students are terminated, it sends a chilling message to the rest of the staff. It says that even if an employee does an exceptional job, he or she might be terminated and sent to the unemployment line. This takes away the incentive other employees have to do a good job. It also discourages applicants from sending their resumes to Fort Lee since the district is rapidly earning a reputation of not valuing its staff. It sends a message that people like Mr. Ian Zellman, who volunteered to chaperone trips to NBA and NHL games in the evening, are not appreciated. This will likely lead to teachers staying home with their families and Fort Lee students being unable to attend these events since staff members will understandably be less willing to volunteer as chaperones.
The current situation leads to serious questions about the district's system of evaluation. First, if these teachers were not performing in a way which would lead to their renewal, why were they not informed of the problem and given the opportunity to improve? Second, if a principal's recommendation is not listened to, why are the taxpayers of Fort Lee paying their relatively high salaries? Third, if the leadership of the district did not think the principal was capable of making a sound judgment on the performance of these employees, why did it not send other people to evaluate the performance and let the teachers know if they were not meeting standards.
As I did last year, I am asking the board to look over the evaluations of several of the people who were not renewed. I know this will be a time commitment for the board members, but I think it is essential to remedy a perception that Fort Lee does not respect its teachers and that its evaluation system is meaningless.