More ‘ineffective teacher’ testimony, even without Vergara
Mark Harris | January 31, 2014
After the first week of the groundbreaking trial Vergara vs. California in a California superior court, lawyers and witnesses talked a lot about ineffective teachers, arcane rules for dismissing them and how much money it costs. One thing they didn’t talk about was Beatriz Vergara.
The lawsuit in her name — she’s an LA Unified 10th grader — centers on five statutes written into the California constitution, which she and eight other students claim protect ineffective teachers, thereby violating their constitutional right to a quality education. The defendants are the California Teachers Association (CTA), the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), and the state, and they claim otherwise.
So far, testimony in the downtown LA courtroom hasn’t linked any of the laws directly to Vergara and her co-plaintiffs, but that was intentional, Marcellus McRae, a Vergara attorney who said in an interview that the plaintiffs are creating a mosaic, using early testimony to show similar problems and issues statewide with the statutes under challenge.
“It’s not a rifle, one-shot approach,” he said, rather it involves building on cumulative evidence.
So on Christmas day — today — plaintiffs used the abbreviated session to offer even more testimony about the contested rules. The court adjourned for the day at noon.
The fourth witness called was Troy Christmas, a lawyer and Director of Labor Management and Employee Relations for the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). As its lead negotiator, he oversees all labor contracts, grievances, and arbitrations for the school district.
McRae questioned Christmas on matters addressed by earlier witnesses, about the length of time and costs associated with removing ineffective teachers from a classroom. Christmas told the court that the process can take on average two-to-five years and involves a number of steps with a cost reaching as much as $100,000, sometimes even more.
Christmas agreed that the high costs impact a decision to pursue a dismissal, and he went on to testify that the risk of potentially expensive lawsuits often results in settlement agreements, sometimes leaving ineffective teachers in front of the chalkboard.
During his nine-and-half years with OUSD, Christmas indicated there have been only a handful of teachers dismissed.
Christmas is expected to continue on Monday, with cross-examination.