Not Qualified To Teach? Alabama’s 2014 Teacher Of The Year Resigns In Disgust
Unbelievable: This is how Birmingham treats their state’s Teacher of the Year?
In yet another stunning example of unbelievable-crap-teachers-have-to-put-up-with, Ann Corgill resigned in disgust after Birmingham City schools claimed her teaching certificate “wasn’t valid.” AL.com reports the 2014 “Alabama Teacher of the Year” and 2015 “National Teacher of the Year” finalist wrote a letter dated Oct. 27, 2015 that said:
“After 21 years of teaching in grades 1-6, I have no answers as to why this is a problem now, so instead of paying more fees, taking more tests and proving once again that I am qualified to teach, I am resigning.”
Corgill had just transferred to Birmingham to teach second grade at Oliver Elementary (part of the city’s Woodlawn Innovation Network or WIN) after her highly-acclaimed three years at Cherokee Bend Elementary in Mountain Brook. The education author and innovator told local newspaperVillage Living that she saw the move as important to her life’s work.
“I believe all kids can do this kind of work I am doing in Mountain Brook. I can’t tell the story of being everywhere if I haven’t been everywhere. It’s important to push myself into new challenges and to learn from different communities.”
Yet — as often happens with these urban experiments in
raising test scores boosting academic achievement in high poverty poorly performing school districts — things quickly went to Hell in a handbasket. First, the school moved Corgill from her second-grade classroom into a fifth-grade classroom. Then, they told her she wasn’t qualified to teach fifth-grade!
Corgill’s state teaching certificate qualifies her to teach Kindergarten through third grade, so technically it could be construed as accurate to say she’s “not qualified” to teach fifth-grade. However, Ann also has a National Board Certification that allows her to teach children ages 7-12. In any case, schools within WIN are supposedly allowed to hire teachers with non-traditional certifications.
Oh, and did I forget to mention Alabama’s “Teacher of the Year” never even received a paycheck for her first month of work? Corgill’s closing statement seems to reveal the real reason she resigned: Her missing paycheck and the apparent confusion about her teaching certificate. But WIN’s overt lack of respect for teachers ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“Please know that I wanted to give my all and share my expertise with Birmingham City Schools. In order to attract and retain the best teachers, we must feel trusted, valued and treated as professionals. It is my hope that my experience can inform new decisions, policies and procedures to make Birmingham City Schools a place everyone wants to work and learn.”
Looks like even “Teacher of the Year Award” winners don’t get paid enough to make ends meet. Corgill’s letter also mentioned the fear of a lowered credit score among the concerns raised by her lack of pay.
Is the “Woodlawn Innovation Network” a charter school in disguise?
Unfortunately for Corgill, what she thought was a bold experiment in education may be an illegal charter school in disguise. Charter schools are illegal in Alabama, but — over many concerns and objections — Birmingham’s Board of Education applied to the state for a waiver that would allow the WIN schools to operate more like them.
In Jan. 2014, AL.Com reported:
The waiver proposes treating principals like chief executive officers and possibly making all teachers reapply for their jobs
Oh, but of course the teachers who don’t get accepted after they “reapply for their jobs” won’t get fired. They’ll just get moved to a different school. Well, if there happen to be any openings. Besides, the teachers might not want to stay, because their principal — oops, I mean CEO — will expect them to really commit.
As Birmingham Superintendent Craig Witherspoon explained:
“It could mean longer hours, different ways of teaching and more project-based learning, and not all teachers may be interested in that. If not, they can choose to move to another school within the district.”
In other words, screw the union contracts and anything that might put limits on the insane hours our nation’s teachers are already working. Why can’t “innovative education” be accomplished with trained, experienced educators who already know the students and their parents? And why would anyone allow someone with the qualities of a CEO anywhere near their children, let alone running a school?
The so-called school reformers keep insisting that we need to bust teacher’s unions and run schools like for-profit companies. But guess what? All the innovations and “Teacher of the Year” award winners in the world won’t help these students unless we also do something about poverty and racism.
Woodlawn High School (which all the WIN schools feed into) is 96 percent black and nearly 92 percent of its students are low-income enough to qualify for free and reduced-priced school lunches. A wide-ranging study by UNICEF clearly links child poverty to low performance in school, Yet among wealthy nations, the U.S. alone prefers to blame teachers for poor academic outcomes instead of lifting children and their families out of poverty.
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Elisabeth Parker is a writer, web designer, mom, political junkie, and dilettante.