A center of collaboration on education reform rejects Malloy

New Haven — New Haven teachers were apprehensive when they backed a new evaluation system three years ago, but they were not angry.

As New Haven Superintendent Reginald Mayo said Tuesday night, “It has been done through collaboration … We are doing it through consensus.”

The model — which led to 2 percent of the district’s teachers being fired this school year — has garnered the national spotlight for what can go right when school districts and unions work together.

But — as was evident at Wilbur Cross High School Tuesday night — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is not having the same success in persuading teachers to sign onto his education reform package that is built on having a statewide evaluation system.

Teachers are angry, and Malloy is the villain.

F for Malloy

A teacher protests SB 24 (Uma Ramiah/CT Mirror)

“We’re not in Wisconsin,” one teacher yelled at the governor, comparing him to the union-bashing proposals attempted by the Republican governor from that state last year.

While Malloy has been greeted with the same antagonistic responses from teachers during each of his forums so far, he’s not willing to wait for them to come on board.

“If we wait until there’s total agreement on anything we are going to do, then we aren’t going to do anything,” Malloy said Tuesday.

But getting that buy-in may be necessary before a Democratic-controlled General Assembly will approve such an overhaul.

“Too many teachers have become skeptical. We have some work to do to convince them,” said Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven. “I don’t think there is a lot of difference in what the governor wants to do and what was done here. … New Haven is a model on how that can happen.”

After an hour of watching many of his teachers heckle the governor for any response he gave — even something as seemingly innocuous as “imagine you have children that attend New Haven Public Schools” — New Haven’s union President David Cicarella acknowledged at the end of the session that he worries not much was accomplished.

“It doesn’t do any good hooting and hollering at the guy,” he said, noting that he worries the only thing that got across is that teachers are furious. “Collaboration is very hard work,” Cicarella said.

Malloy in New Haven 2

Gov. Malloy addresses administrators, teachers and students in New Haven. (Uma Ramiah/CT Mirror)

There is no question that Malloy is proposing to go beyond what was agreed upon in New Haven, by tying these annual evaluations to tenure and pay. And when a teacher is identified to be let go, the proposed appeals process would provide the union no opportunity argue that the evaluation was flawed; its only argument could be that the process was not followed.

“Whatever the principal says goes,” Cicarella equates such a move to. “He is talking about eliminating due process.”

Malloy’s plans also would limit teacher unions from collectively bargaining incentives to attract the best teachers, the transfer of teachers and requiring additional training for staff in the state’s lowest-performing districts. The governor is also proposing extending the amount of time to one year that new teachers are “at-will” employees. This would allow principals to fire them without certain dismissal proceedings.

Malloy may have repeated several times during the forum that he is looking to New Haven for guidance, but Mayo laughed after the forum when asked if what the governor wants to get done is possible when he has already rankled so many teachers.

“Wow,” he said, then pointed to the line of teachers filtering out of the auditorium. “You have to get them.”

But if the governor’s intentions are being jaded by the unions, that may be difficult, said Rep. Gary Holder Winfield, D-New Haven.

“He’s having a difficult time getting his message across. It’s hard to overcome what all these people are being told by their union leadership,” Winfield said. “Teachers aren’t getting the full picture.”