Staffers at four Dot schools face re-applying for jobs

With state education officials pressing for dramatic improvement at twelve schools citywide that have been deemed underperforming, staff members at four Dorchester area schools will be asked to reapply for their jobs, local school officials said this week.
The schools taking action are Jeremiah E. Burke High, William Trotter Elementary, Paul Dever Elementary, and Harbor Middle School.

The other eight schools mentioned for overhaul are Louis Agassiz Elementary of Jamaica Plain, Henry Dearborn Middle of Roxbury, English High of Jamaica Plain, Elihu Greenwood Elementary of Hyde Park, John Holland Elementary of Dorchester, John F. Kennedy Elementary of Jamaica Plain, and Orchard Gardens K-8 of Roxbury.

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson is installing new principals at several of the schools, including Robert Martin at Harbor Middle School. Martin, who starts in July, has been principal of the Hugh O’Donnell Elementary School of East Boston since 2003.

Martin previously has worked at Dearborn Middle School as both a teacher and a principal. Between 1981 and 1999 he served as principal of the John McCormack Middle School of Dorchester. He has also worked at the Seven Hills Charter School, a K-8 school in Worcester, for three years.

The changes were announced last week at Holland Elementary School at a press conference that included Mayor Thomas Menino, state Rep. Marie St. Fleur, and members of the School Committee and the City Council.

“We’re going to be doing very different work in these schools than we have in the past,” Johnson said. She added that “we’re going to hold principals accountable for results.”

Martin told the Reporter his first task will be reviewing the state’s assessment of Harbor Middle School as well as the school’s budget and staff. He also pledged to “talk to the teachers and see what they envision as the school’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Because teachers at Harbor Middle School have work agreements, fifty percent of them will be asked to reapply for their jobs, a departure from the situation at the other three schools where all staff will be asked to reapply.

To get out from under the “underperforming school” designation, schools must show progress over the course of three years through improvement in standardized test scores and in stemming the achievement gap for minority students.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association, the state’s top teachers’ union, said the “underperforming school” designations offer a chance for them to play an “integral part” in the proposed overhauls of the schools.

“With adequate resources and true collaboration, we believe that teaching and learning conditions can be improved in these schools and in others serving similarly disadvantaged students,” MTA president Anne Wass said in a statement. “We do not believe that lasting improvements will be achieved with top-down reforms. As mandated by the new state law, we expect teachers and their unions to be an integral part of the redesign process right from the start.”

Material from State House News Service was used in this report.