Dispatch Editorial Unwittingly Proves Why SB5 Should be Repealed

August 17, 2011

Recently The Columbus Dispatch wrote an editorial titled Undue Process. The Big D’s opinion was that firing bad teachers should be easier and SB5 would accomplish that. The problem is the editorial points out more problems with SB5 than solutions.

In the editorial the Dispatch gives two case scenarios where teachers, who where admittedly bad teachers, were allowed to hang on for years before one retired and the other was fired.

The first is the case of Eric B. Brentlinger a Columbus school district special education teacher. Brentlinger had a history of abusing students that began in 1989. He was not given a last chance agreement to sign until 2006. But in 2007 he challenged a student to a fight and was allowed to sign another last chance agreement. This despite complaints from numerous parents. He finally retired in 2010.

The second case is one I have written about numerous times. It’s the case of Mt. Vernon science teacher John Freshwater. Freshwater was a religious zealot who promoted his beliefs in the classroom. He taught creationism, kept a bible on his desk, and had religious materials plastered around his classroom. He burnt a cross on the forearm of several students with a Tesla coil. He was warned several times to remove the materials, but was not recommended for termination until the parents of one of the children burnt complained and eventually sued the school district. Freshwater was finally fired.

The Dispatch believes SB5 will solve cases like these. Here’s what they said.

Ohio Senate Bill 5, the measure passed in May that limits public employees’ collective-bargaining rights and reforms other provisions of public employment, offers some help in that, eventually, fewer teachers will have tenure. That means a school board could simply choose not to renew the contract of a poorly performing teacher.

The fact is that part of every contract negotiation includes discussion of a progressive discipline policy. It’s clear that in both cases either the administrators and school boards did not follow that policy or negotiated a poor policy.

Furthermore, it appears it was not until concerned parents became involved that the school boards acted.

Therefore, I would suggest that the problem is not the difficulty of removing poor teachers. It is the lack of willingness of administrators to follow progressive discipline policies, the lack of oversight by school boards who need to hold their administrators accountable, and the need for more concerned parents that is the solution. SB5 does not accomplish any of that.

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The Madrigal Maniac

A Central Ohio Social Worker striving to bring justice to the City of Columbus and the State of Ohio through respectful conversation.

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