Media: Sentimental (& Inaccurate) Turnaround Coverage

image from
Last week it was the nice principal in Vermont. This week it’s the nice
lunch ladies in Chicago.  The vivid but really sentimental story is
from Chicago Public Radio and is focused on the lunch ladies at Deneen Elementary School
In the piece, beat reporter Linda Lutton takes a tour around the
cafeteria and notes that there are seven lunch ladies at the school, all
of whom have to apply for jobs now. Plus a beloved school security
guard.  I don’t mind the story’s focus on the disruption and collateral
damage that school improvement efforts can cause, or the underlying
questions about whether it’s worth it to break these community ties. 
But this is pretty sentimental stuff – especially since a certain number
of teachers and staff at most turnarounds can and often do end up
getting rehired at the same school, and there are legitimate budget and
staffing questions that need to be addressed at many struggling schools.
Bottom line: being asked to reapply for a job isn’t the same as being

Filed under: Media Watch


Leave a comment
  • I know, I know, you're a blogger that has to "make a splash" by way of controversy to keep people coming back to read your stuff, but you can't really be serious.

    You're wrong. These employees are, in fact, terminated. Of course, they may apply for a position in their own building just as they may apply for a position anywhere else, but they are most certainly fired. That certain number of staff that you seem to think "often do" get rehired represents a very, very small percentage of employees. From your commentary it makes it sound like no big deal. Bottom line: it is a very big deal.

    Is the NPR story sentimental? Maybe. Inaccurate? No.

  • i get that having to reapply for a job you may think you do really well sucks, especially if the school's failures have nothing to do with you.

    but the way i look at it, if you're good at your job and a value to the school and the community then there's no reason you shouldn't reapply and get rehired.

    we probably disagree about that. but the key thing is that the lutton story makes it seems more universal and inevitable than it is.

    later on in her piece, lutton does mention the rehiring possibility, and notes that the guard chooses not to re-apply (and the crazy provision about seniority replacements, which makes no sense to me) -- i should have been clearer about that.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    First, your bottom line for this post was that reapplying for a job isn't the same as being fired. Sorry, but it is. Not sure why that's such a mystery to you.

    Second, I think your comment that "if you're good at your job and a value to the school and the community then there's no reason you shouldn't reapply and get rehired" is hopelessly naive and disconnected from reality. As is so often the case, logical, theoretical interpretation (like yours) just isn't the way things work out on the ground. Savvy, exceptional veterans are rarely rehired, especially if they have more than 5 years of experience teaching.

    Third, there are better models for turning around a school culture that don't involve destroying stability for children and an entire building's worth of careers. An ineffective learning community is best improved by replacing an administrative team. And please do not underestimate the impact of being an unemployed worker from a school that was closed or turned around. While a small handful of less than adequate school employees may be let go (and should have been let go over the years by a competent administrative team), a larger number of quality employees, regardless of personal and professional achievement, receive a kiss of career death: "failed" teacher from a "failed" school - a literal black listing.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    My understanding is that AUSL schools are covered by the CTU contract. But the new hires are often not going to be displaced teachers, but rather teachers that went through the AUSL program, who are often younger.

    I do understand the concept of breaking a culture of failure, I worked at Calumet High School and we were simply overwhelmed with problems before the school was closed and converted to a charter school. But many of our past problems are being recreated at Perspectives Calumet Campus. At grade 11 in 2009 only 18.9% of juniors were reading at or above state standards at all Perspectives campuses (including Perspectives/IIT Math & Science Academy and Rodney D. Joslin Campus)and only 3.8% of the students with IEPs were reading at state standards. The average ACT score in 2009 was 17.4 which was below the city average.

    In 1998 Calumet was considered to be a very bad high school, but even back then using the IGAP 31% of students were meeting state reading goals by grade 10. I know the current test is very different but I do think this comparison puts the turn around/conversion process into perspective.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    If you think that story was lousy, listen to the inverview NPR did with Arne Duncan today about Race to the Bottom money. Duncan side stepped questions and the interviewer failed to press the Secretary Ed. It was four minutes of Duncan propaganda.

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    Alexander, here are the type of teachers that probably won't be rehired at the turnaround (turned-out) schools; CTU delegates, LSC members, teacher leaders (especially the ones that stand up for teachers), teachers at the top of the pay scale (so AUSL can save money) and almost every teacher at Marshall High School, 11%-15% (unless you are Dorothy Gators)! The turnaround process is a bunch of crap, just like, probation, remediation, reconstitution, reengineering, intervention, phasing-out and closing! Did I miss anything? P.S.- Bloggers, it is not about the students, it is about politics!

  • In reply to chijas:

    I don't know about turnaround being useless. It replaced closures because there was a good point about students being shuffled from place to place and losing the consistency of going to the same school. So turnaround really is for the students.

    Now I think applying it to lunch ladies & janitors is asinine. I seriously doubt these folks are impacting the educational process all that much.

  • In reply to chijas:


    It is a very old idea

Leave a comment