Updated: Denial of Tenure to MHS Teacher
…and MHS Principal abruptly retires.
"AMAZING JOB EVERYONE!!," says a message on the Facebook page, "The meeting was so incredible and i really think that what was said will stick with the board…"
That Facebook page ( now at over 535 members) quickly organized by students at Mamaroneck High School, was buzzing after the District School Board meeting Tuesday night.
Supporters of High School English teacher Jennifer Rosenzweig, questioned and challenged the decision to deny the popular teacher tenure.
Members of the Board of Education said that they would listen to the audience’s feedback but that district officials could not comment on Rosenzweig’s employment, citing personnel issues.
The superintendent decides who gets tenure based on recommendations from other officials, including the Principal. The Board may not overturn his decision to deny tenure, officials said.
According to John Sacks, father of two children at Mamaroneck Avenue School, who has followed the situation, "She is (one of the) the least senior teachers and by the teacher’s contract must go," if not granted tenure.
Coincidentally or not, It was also announced Tuesday that MHS Principal Dr. Mark P. Orfinger would retire at the end of the school year. (interesting piece on LoHud blog)
theLoop has been in contact with Rosenzweig, who has chosen not to comment publicly at this time.
from March 28:
A public protest against the decision by the Mamaroneck School District not to grant tenure to a popular teacher has gathered steam
with a planned protest at a meeting of the School Board April 6 and a Facebook page with over 425 members.
As some readers first reported to theLoop with comments last week, Jennifer Rosenzweig,43, who has taught English at MHS for three years, was cut despite hundreds of letters of support from parents and students. She and her family live in Larchmont and her children attend schools in the District.
Last week, Mamaroneck high School students wore black armbands with a yellow "R" in protest. Rosenzweig declined an interview for this article.
"Support Mrs. Rosenzweig" Facebook page
From students on Facebook:
Hey guys first off i would like to thank everyone for the tremendous support everyone has been giving. Second we are aware that not everyone was able to come to the meetings we have had, so this is serving as an update on what we know, where we stand, and what went on in our meetings. Janaye Stanford wrote the following bit summing these points up.
"OK guys this is just the status of things. Yesterday (3/24) when we met with Dr. Orfinger basically nothing happened, and he told us that there are things that we can’t understand and that there are budget cuts and many teachers are being "let go" and Mrs. Rosenzweig, being the newest of the English department is not being asked to come back next year. We disagree with this and told him that we really want to move forward and find a way to save her whether the teachers can use the union to save her or we pull funding from stupid things like a million hand sanitizers or fricking bronze tigers!! I think its ridiculous. And he told us that he would not rethink his decision and that what is done is done. We left right afterward to talk to Dr. Fried, and thanks everyone who came today (3/25) to talk on Mrs. Rosenzweig’s behalf, we seemed to have made some progress. Dr. Fried has agreed to meet with us again with the whole board of education and we hope that more kids will come, and I just want to make the board actually think about this. So if we have to keep them focused on this problem because Dr. Fried is retiring this year and he will totally push this under the table and i want to keep this open so that Mrs Rosenzweig can have a chance to fight the system."
Furthermore, if you have not yet written a letter/email voicing your opinion here are a few tips:
-At this point sending your letter to Dr. Fried, our superintendent, with a copy to the school board would probably do the most good.
-Although we all know Mrs. Rosenzweig is a terrific, nice person, try to focus on her strengths as a teacher instead.
-Back up what you say with examples referencing your personal experience with her as a teacher.
-As always be respectful in your letter.
As a last note I just want to bring to everyone’s attention that Tuesday 4/6 at 7:30 is the next board meeting, and it is expected that a discussion will take place regarding Mrs. Rosenzweig. It would be great if many people came to show their support so long as no one gets out of hand. Also if some people would be willing to speak and/or read their letters about their personal experiences with Mrs. Rosenzweig that would be great. Most likely people will not have to stay for the whole meeting because they will most likely set a time that they will talk about this issue. If any more information regarding this comes out I will send another message out to notify everyone.
[i]… a debate on whether teachers’ unions should be blamed for failing schools … [/i]
– Intelligence Squared, bloomberg.com
And this situation discussed in theLoop article should start a debate here on whether tenure – a concept borrowed from colleges and universities – contributes to or hinders the best K-12 education.
Opening statement: Significant structural changes are necessary if we are really to save anything. Think BIG.
I don’t understand how the Administration can be blamed for this. THe Teachers Union has negotiated that seniority primes quality or performance. Last in first out. Blame the tenure system and move on.
This is [b]not[/b] a budget/seniority issue. If Mrs. Rosenzweig is not given tenure, the district will advertise the position and hire a replacement. This issue goes straight to the heart of what has been wrong in the high school for years and is the cause of such low faculty morale. The issue is the high school principal.
What other job is there a probationary period of THREE YEARS? If Mrs. Rosenzweig was not performing up to a certain standard, why wasn’t that indicated during year one or year two? Did the administration really need three years to determine her lack of qualification, after she had put in several years of work, writing three years worth of college recommendations, and connecting with the community?
And why is one man’s opinion of a teacher more important than the hundreds of students and parents with whom she has interacted through three years?
The tenure system in Mamaroneck is certainly flawed.
I am inspired by the dedication and comittment that these students have for their teacher. Maybe these students understand something that the structure of the tenure system fails to address. In order for students to maximize their learning potentail, they need to feel inspired and connected to their teachers. Equally important to the knowlege that a teacher has about his/her subject is his/her ability to affect students. Unfortunately (more common than not) many teachers begin their careers energized, passionate and have a fire in their bellies. As they have been teaching for 10-15 years (especially with all the bureaucracy in the public school system) that fire tends to dwindle. The fire that a teacher brings in to the classroom is contagious. Students will push themselves and muster through some of the most challenging materials if they are inspired and excited. Obviously, Mrs. Rosenzweig brought a fire in to her classroom that her students do not want to see extinguished.
Everyone must ask ‘why?’ If this is not a budgetary issue (which it isn’t), why would the principal deny tenure to a teacher that has garnered this amount of unprecedented support – from students, parents, faculty, and the PTA? Find out the real answer. Demand the answers from the principal. None will make sense.
I must say that in the land of automatic tenure or almost (say 97% over the years) denying tenure to a good teacher appears odd.. She appears not to share the characteristics of previous tenured no problem sex offenders or bullies like the examples we had in the past, carefully selected by principals of various schools.
Several terrific English teachers from Mamaroneck are now teaching at outstanding high schools throughout the county where they are very well regarded. Can the school afford to lose yet another? Mrs. Rosenzweig is a dedicated, compassionate and brilliant teacher whose students become excited about [b]Hamlet[/b], [b]Macbeth[/b], [b]The Great Gatsby[/b] et al. She is an excellent writing teacher. Mrs. Rosenzweig writes dozens of letters of recommendation to colleges. She challenges her students to think and to excel. She is the consummate professional, and continues to be so throughout this terrible ordeal. Every member of the staff who has worked with Mrs. Rosenzweig is tremendously upset that this is happening to her. Her reputation among the students, parents, teachers and counselors is without parallel. Imagine the impact of her loss on present and future MHS students. There is no legitimate reason for this to be happening. How long must this kind of thing go on in the High School?
How about we take some of the $250k we have to pay in retirement for the superintendent who “retired” only to get a job in another town, and give it to this woman? The Superintendent was so tone deaf to the community that he kept raising the budget in a recession–and yet he goes on to collect big bucks, while this woman gets tossed. Makes no sense to me.
We have learned during the budget process that 90% of the total budget is outside the control of the school board. The reasons? Tenure, seniority, inflexible labor contracts, guaranteed pensions and step increases. If the board is unable to increase the budget by the 10%-15% annually required to support all this (untenable, since it would double our taxes every 6-8 years), then it must cut each year from the 10% it does have control over. That remaining 10% includes new, exciting, and vibrant teachers.
The problem is that the board does not control 90% of the tax resources it raises, the unions do. The price we all pay is that mediocre, careerist teachers are locked into the school system because of tenure/seniority (and believe me, as a parent, I’ve seen them) while vibrant, energetic teachers must be shown the door to protect the tenured slots. Question…how many new teaching positions must be sacrificed to protect one tenured slot?
It is time to rethink the seniority and lifetime tenure system, reward good teachers, and introduce greater flexibility in allocating our scare tax resources in education. The old sacred cows should be put out to pasture…this will upset unions and the politicians they fund, but so be it. Charter school district, anyone?
Being a former student of Mrs. Rozenweig, she brings a lot of things to the table, that most teachers don’t address. we have so many teachers at the high school that are burn out’s or have no passion for the subject. Mrs. Rozenweig is not like that, i have never met someone so happy to be at work every morning, and she truly inspires students to be good people in the world. She taught me a lot about life in that class, indirectly of coarse. It was my junior year, and i was just a teen trying to find myself, not so sure of who i am in this world, or what i will become. Mrs. Rozenweig taught me things through reading, that i would have never known otherwise. Putting aside the fact that she’s an excellent teacher, and challenges students to work harder, she teachers her students about enjoying simplistic things in life, and inspires people to live happily.
Mrs. Rozenweig has a beautiful soul, and it absolutely crushes me to see her go through this. Students in her classroom feel a connection that the people outside looking in, simply do not understand.
First, this is not about the budget. Mrs. Rosenzweig’s position will need to be filled with some unknown, untested new candidate. This is not a budget cut. It is a decision to get rid of a dynamic, engaging, inspiring teacher for no apparent reason. Hundreds of letters were written in support of her tenure, from parents, students, and Mrs. Rosenzweig’s colleagues. Yet, Dr. Fried allowed all these voices to be over-ridden by one voice: that of a controversial principal. WHY is this OK? Does the community’s opinion really mean nothing. Does the Board of Ed have no power here? If you aren’t sick over this, you should be. Clearly we have seen that the administration is all-powerful during the budget process…During the last two years, Dr. Fried has sliced and diced programs and teachers and raised class sizes, yet the size of the administration has not changed since his arrival. With all these cuts in postions, who are all these administrators administrating to?? The community asked many times for a cut at the admin level and to stop impacting the end user…yet to no avail. Now, we see we can’t even keep an overwhlmingly popular teacher…last count, her students have 534 friends on facebook in support of her! I back them all the way and the community should, too! (and to all of you sick of the mandatory pay raises and benefit packages that are bankrupting the community, you are right, but these are two different issues. Don’t cloud them. )
It is time for the Board and the Superintendent to come to terms with the real problem here.
Why did the principal’s secretary retire at the end of last year? Why did another teacher from the English Department resign in the middle of this year? Why have there been complaints and grievances filed against the high school administration in regard to treatment of the staff? Why have so many teachers and counselors left MHS to teach in other districts? Perhaps it is time for the Superintendent and members of the Board to meet privately with the High School faculty. Mrs. Rosenzweig’s students certainly understand that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” Will it be addressed in time to save this extraordinary teacher?
[quote]Tenure, the total compensation method and the contract are among the rust of the system. Rust destroys if not stopped.
Evaluation of all school personnel is too limited. Though some measurements of student performance exist, measurements of learning – start and end point measurements – don’t.
This “issue” becomes an apparent personality vs. administration contest in which the public that pays the bills and is concerned with education cannot make a valid judgment or have an appropriate input.
There is an answer. If eyes are opened and systems change. The symptoms are obvious, the disease goes untreated.
Mr. Sacks is incorrect. Mrs. Rosenzweig is not the least senior member in the department.
To reiterate, this has absolutely nothing to do with budget cuts.
editrix if you could explain, we would appreciate it.
A lawyer spoke by invitation of the Board last night and clarified that the Board does not have power to override Dr. Fried’s final decision concerning tenure. (I can’t remember if this is the Board’s lawyer or a lawyer from the teacher’s union.) However, after last night it would be a shocking outcome if Mrs. Rosenzwieg is not offered tenure. The students were truly amazing. I hope Dr. Fried was able to see the type of teacher Mrs. Rosenzwieg is and the impact she has made in three short years.
No positions from the English Dept at the HS have been eliminated. This is about Mrs. R. not the budget.
editrix that’s correct. according to last available budget proposal presentation, no english position at MHS is eliminated
A teacher not offerred Tenure could continue to work for another year if there was a position available the decision could then be reviewed at the end of that year. If I was wrong in my statement then please show me how. Seniority has to do with tenured teachers, they can not be removed to open a space for Ms. Rosenwieg even if she happens to be a superior teacher.
“Tenure neednâ€™t be, â€˜fish or cut baitâ€™. A district and educator may enter a Juul agreement to extend the probationary period one year. The district waives its right to dismiss the teacher and the teacher waives his/her right to claim tenure by estoppel. The extra year offers a chance to improve performance. At the end of the fourth year, the district may grant or deny tenure just as it would after the third year. Juul agreements are creatures of case law, named after a Long Island court decision Juul v. Board of Educ. of Hempstead UFSD (76 A.D.2d 837 (2d Dep’t 1980), aff’d, 55 N.Y.2d 648 (1981)).””
JS: I can’t find your original comment, so I am not sure about why people feel you are in error. To clarify, Mrs. R. was not granted tenure NOT because there was not a space for her. There is no cut in the English Dept. at the HS for next year. (There was a cut in the original budget proposal, but it was restored after the first meeting.) If Mrs. R. is not offered tenure (or a 4th year) a new HS English teacher will have to be hired.
editrixhe was quoted in the article
@ OBSERVER said:
“What other job is there a probationary period of THREE YEARS?” My question back to you is, “At what other job do you get [i]guaranteed[/i] employment after any probationary period?” In my opinion, in the case of teachers, an extended probationary period is necessary to prove fit with the position, the school, and the community. The whole concept of tenure is out of sync with employment realities in other professions.
From the Facebook quotes, “”OK guys this is just the status of things. Yesterday (3/24) when we met with Dr. Orfinger basically nothing happened, and he told us that there are things that we can’t understand …” If Dr Orfinger really uttered those words he deserves to be fired. As an educator it is his responsibility to make sure that the students charged to his care do understand.
What if the community guaranteed the BOE that we would not approve another school budget until Ms R was rehired. Would the BOE find a way to make it happen?
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org in support of granting tenure to Jennifer Rosezweig. The issue is not closed, although the week has come to an end with no new news. This is purely Dr. Fried’s decision. Let him know how you feel. If for no other reason than to support the 500+ students who have come out to support her and her entire English Department. (in fact, not one negative opinion has been voiced.)
Well, if SUTDENT’s prose is any indication of Ms. R’s teaching ability, I am with Dr. Orfinger! On a more serious note, black armbands to protest denial of a permanent position in the context of 10% unemployment? Casting aspersions on the timing of Dr. Orfinger’s retirement, while looking to the similarly departing Dr. Fried to overturn the decision? Get a grip.
Ok, I tuned in late, but as I understand it lame-duck principal recommended to lame-duck superintendent to deny tenure to popular teacher. No one knows why this decision was taken. Teacher’s current and former English students, many with astonishingly poor writing and speaking skills, howled in protest. Arguments for retaining the teacher hinge on her good personality and willingness to fulfill job responsibilities such as instructing students and writing college recommendations. Spring is in the air and we’re all a-fever.
This is very mysterious. Is she a good teacher and a victim of a politicized district, or a popular teacher who does not meet legitimate criteria for tenure? This is a moment when performance measurement might come in handy. Gee, how are teachers evaluated before they get lifetime guaranteed employment leading to one of those legendary public-sector retirement packages? Were reviews conducted after years one and two on the job? Is it all subject to the whim of the principal? Are there any objective elements to a tenure review? If each of her students wrote a paragraph in support of her would we care more about their feelings or their ability to construct and punctuate a sentence properly?
It’s a sensitive issue; people’s careers are at stake and we don’t want to violate anyone’s privacy nor to destroy faculty morale. We value and respect our teachers, and want them to be fulfilled, well compensated, and to stay engaged. In return, we want them to meet high standards of teaching so our students graduate from the district ready to plunge into a very competitive world.
Here in Larchmont, in the heart of well-educated, high-achieving, type-A Westchester, that’s the elephant in the room. We’re not satisfied with the schools, even though we spend more per student than most districts in our state, without wasting money on non-essentials like school buses and boiler upgrades.
It would take tremendous political will and be terribly divisive to overhaul the unionized educational system. It won’t happen in the current climate. (Look at California: nearly bankrupt, yet no hard structural decisions have been made to preserve that state’s legacy of educational excellence. ) Working within the current framework, is it too much to ask that principals and administrators share with us their methodology for tenure decisions? Students and parents may be satisfied to know that approval ratings are part of the mosaic, together with fact-based grading that emphasizes the candidate’s effectiveness as an educator. Could we shine a little light into that dark place, please? or is that one of the complicated things that we wouldn’t understand?
It is ironic that Flyered and Mystified criticize the students’ writing skills. I am certain that Mrs. Rosenzweig would be happy to point out their own difficulties with grammar and syntax.
Did you read “Student’s” comments? Just in case you missed them, I’ve cut and pasted them below:
[i]Being a former student of Mrs. Rozenweig, she brings a lot of things to the table, that most teachers don’t address. we have so many teachers at the high school that are burn out’s or have no passion for the subject. Mrs. Rozenweig is not like that, i have never met someone so happy to be at work every morning, and she truly inspires students to be good people in the world. She taught me a lot about life in that class, indirectly of coarse. It was my junior year, and i was just a teen trying to find myself, not so sure of who i am in this world, or what i will become. Mrs. Rozenweig taught me things through reading, that i would have never known otherwise. Putting aside the fact that she’s an excellent teacher, and challenges students to work harder, she teachers her students about enjoying simplistic things in life, and inspires people to live happily.
This student is now a Senior or older. Presumably by the time s/he was a Junior, using capital letters, proper use of apostrophes (“burn out’s”) and the difference between “course” and “coarse” would have been mastered. Not to mention, “enjoying simplistic things in life”… that doesn’t even make sense in spoken English. I understand typos – I’ve corrected a few of my own just typing this and there is the possibility that I will post without having caught all of them. (So I will put down the misspelling of the teacher’s name to a typo rather than an outright mistake…despite the fact that this system has a spell check.) But this in no way can be considered a persuasive piece of writing. It is an impassioned plea to keep a nice person, but not a shining example of a job well done.
Conversely, you might not have LIKED what “Mystified” said, but it was well said, well constructed, and properly punctuated. It is the kind of writing that our students are supposed to be learning and certainly by the age of 17 or 18, should be demonstrating. Maybe not quite word for word, but they should be producing something closer to “Mystified” than to “Student” if they really want to have an impact.
Just had to say…
Speaking of typos, is it asking too much for the School Board to proof its press releases? Today we learned that the Board rejected the teachers’ proposed compromise in order to avoid placing “an undo financial burden on the community”. Boy, how I wish they’d undo my financial burden!
On a serious note, MYSTIFIED is exactly right. Our schools are not what we want them to be. We are unable to teach children when it is proper to use “amount” rather than “number”, “you and I” rather than “you and me” (and vice versa), or “who” rather than “that”. More alarmingly, nobody seems to care! We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars paying full salaries to counselors who were “reassigned to home” because they posed a danger to the children they were expected to mentor. We refuse to institute foreign language instruction at the elementary school level despite abundant research that such instruction fosters brain development (as well as perhaps contributing to our children’s becoming citizens of the world). To the person who suggested that we vote down the budget in order to force the Board to reinstate Ms. R, be careful what you wish for. This community is on the brink of a revolt, and I am not sure the leadership realizes it. The ever-increasing tax burden is not just a financial concern; the trend is to price more and more people out of this market. Not that we’ve ever been particularly “diverse” in this district, but the current trend is deeply troubling.
There are many seniors who have not mastered all elements of writing. Mamaroneck High School has a large number of students who are classified and receive special education services. Many others who are not classified have learning issues which make writing difficult. One of Mrs. Rosenzweig’s many strengths as a teacher is her ability to inspire these students to read important literary works and write frequently about them. I know many of the students who spoke on her behalf. Speaking to the board and a large audience is not an easy thing for students to do, particularly when the stakes are high. They are emotional about the issue and they love their teacher. They were very clear that they support her tenure because she is a great teacher as well as a “nice lady.” There is no reason to criticize the students on this forum. They stepped forward in a respectful manner to protest an action which they believe is unjust. They have first – hand information on this issue, which makes their input more valuable than arch comments from people who know nothing about it.
I don’t claim to know anything about Mrs. Rosenzweig’s abilities. I’m glad some of her students had a good experience in her classes and I admire them for speaking up her defense.
The point I was trying to make was that tenure-granting is an opaque process, in a profession where there is a great deal of freedom and minimal supervision. Evaluations of teachers are never revealed except at the time tenure is awarded or denied. My family’s experience in the district has taught me that there’s a broad range of ability among the faculty — the veterans as well as the rookies — and each year, we had to live with the luck of the draw. Many — no, most — of the Mamaroneck teachers my family know well are marvelous. I am grateful to them, and I don’t begrudge them anything. I also found that a handful of our teachers were not very good, unfortunately, and I wished there could be some pruning of the ranks to bring in fresh recruits. Tenuring mistakes cannot be undone for years or even decades. Is that fair?
What is the success rate of applications for tenure? Is it different from than that of other, similarly-desirable districts? Can it really be 98%, as one of the letters below implied? (that seems absurdly high, which proves my point: is the the tenure-approval rate known, or is secrecy dictated by the an arcane collective bargaining agreement ?) Might it be possible that our district could improve quality by treating tenure as a rare reward for A-plus performance? Sorry to repeat myself, but is there any objective measurement of a tenure candidate or does it come down to the personal, subjective assessment of the principal?
Parents should have nothing to do with hiring or granting tenure to individual teachers. Colleague is right, we know nothing about it. My belief is that the BOE and parents should understand the thought process better, and then judge whether the principals and superintendant of the district are using our resources to hire and retain the best teachers we possibly can.
Reading all of these comments about a teacher not getting tenure who obviously seems to deserve it or at least another year to prove her worthiness is incredible. What I find incredible is this: there are teachers who are receiving tenure who are a complete waste to the profession. They are late to work all the time, don’t show up for meetings or answer e mails, do not follow curriculum standards or carry their weight, totally clueless on how to deal with children or their individual needs unless it is spelled out in a book, yet somehow they are able to get on the right side of administration. They are being awarded tenure while there are teachers who are better deserving of this honor being denied it. With all the money NOT being cut in administration, one would think they would be able to do a better job of supervising and supporting their staff! This district is unbelievable and ridiculous!:'(