This week I will turn in my candidate papers and $3,500 to the Registrar of Voters for a ballot statement for my Trustee Area No. 4 seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education. It has been a privilege to serve the education community, its students and teachers as a board member these past four years. San Jose Inside has allowed me a forum to present and discuss the leading educational issues of our valley. There is much good work to do in the next four years, and I would like to be a voice at the political and policy table.
If I am fortunate to have the majority or plurality of those 130,000 registered voters in TA4—San Jose Unified School District, part of Oak Grove and East Side Union High School District—who vote, my next four years will focus on three complex issues:
1. Continue to work on creating the best educational experiences for students enrolled in our direct service programs: Alternative Education, Special Education, Regional Occupational Programs/Career Technical Education, Head Start and Migrant Education. This involves giving new Superintendent Dr. Xavier De La Torre, his cabinet, and teachers all the resources and support needed to reach this very attainable goal.
2. Ensure there is a fruitful discussion on the need for performance pay for the best teachers. Recruit and retain the best teachers for Silicon Valley to eliminate the achievement gap by 2020. In a new report by The New Teacher Project in New York, high rates of teacher attrition—especially those who are the top teachers—is a major drain on the quality of instruction in America’s classrooms.
3. Further the dialogue on how teacher unions in Silicon Valley can work with management to recast the definition of tenure. There is no room in our classrooms for teachers who stay in the profession when their work is less than par. Both sides would agree with this assertion, yet there are still far too many examples. Both sides are to blame. I believe student achievement needs to be more broadly defined than solely scores on achievement tests. Tenure as we know it must change.
Teaching as a profession, in my view, is the most important career for ensuring the security and advancement of the US in the 21st century. We have a crisis brewing when one examines the data in light of our changing demographics. We need exemplary teachers, or at the very least average teachers, in every classroom in America. By retaining the “irreplaceables,” 20 percent of the total as the study defines, we raise the boat for all teachers and students as a consequence. Our nation rises with their success.
The National Education Association largely seconded the reports findings but had some reservations about its recommendations.
Some recommendations we can work on here in Silicon Valley are:
• Pay the best teachers more, into six figures early in their careers.
• Dismiss teachers who, after remediation efforts, still cannot teach with value-added data. Tenure must be redefined for this to happen.
• Principals must become stronger in their ability to link retention with teacher quality.
In one article examined in preparation for this column, NEA said, correctly I believe, that the report should have made a stronger connection between teacher preparation and retention. The stronger the university preparation program, the higher the retention of those teachers in the best teacher preparation programs.
Something union leaders should consider is that charter schools in Silicon Valley do not have tenure as part of their structure at this time. Charter schools are funded with public dollars. Many Silicon Valley charters pay for performance and many have strong retention goals. The SCCOE Board has approved up to 29 Rocketship charter schools and other high performing charter schools like DCP, Summit, Discovery, ACE, Magnolia and more.
I will vote for high quality charter schools that contribute to meeting the goal of eliminating the achievement gap by 2020. Doing more of the same is not an option.
The time is ripe for discussing thoughtful and prudent changes to a system of public education that has yet to reach its full potential.
Joseph DiSalvo is the president of the Santa Clara County Board of Education. He was born and raised in San Jose.