Last month, I resigned from Knox County Schools, after eighteen years in the district and twenty-three years teaching in Tennessee. I can’t imagine that a letter could begin to mention all of the problems that are inherent throughout the district – or even the problems witnessed by an individual employee. My letter is limited to just a few of my concerns from the last three years.
My personal information, contact information, and school information have been redacted from this post. If necessary, I can be contacted via the “comments” section at the bottom. (Please note: All comments on this personal site are read prior to posting & may take up to 48 hours to appear.)
[personal information redacted]
Dear Dr. McIntyre:
Please accept this letter as notice of my resignation from the position of Music Teacher at [redacted] Elementary. I am certainly willing to continue in this position for up to thirty(30) days, per Board policy. If a replacement is found earlier, I will be glad to be released from that requirement. This resignation includes my appointment as BLTC and 500 – 1,000+ additional, unpaid hours of service I have given to [redacted] Elementary each year.
I would love to say that I am accepting a fabulous new position, with amazing benefits and an incredible salary. I am not. I am leaving neither for higher pay nor fantastic perks. I don’t have another job waiting. I am leaving for my integrity.
On more than one occasion, I have heard Central Office supervisors or building administrators chastise: “Anyone who doesn’t agree with the way things are going in KCS should go elsewhere.” I am one of 70% of KCS teachers who cannot agree with the status quo and it is time for me to pursue other opportunities, which are more aligned to my beliefs:
- I believe that harassment, intimidation, coercion, retaliation, and threats of dismissal have no place in attracting, building, or retaining strong educators.
- I believe that people should be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of age or level of experience.
- I believe that agreements should be honored and that attempts to circumvent disability accommodations are inexcusable.
- I believe that an “Improvement Plan” should be set up to solve real problems, rather than to create additional, often pointless, hurdles and hoops to navigate.
- I believe that honesty and integrity are important traits to be sought in persons who lead our schools and that deceptive practices have no place in education.
- I believe that evaluations are important tools that should be taken seriously and should be done by “highly-qualified and unbiased evaluators” who are also qualified to perform the job they are evaluating.
- I believe that failing to follow content-knowledgeable evaluation practices will continue to perpetuate poor feedback that is rarely pedagogically appropriate and often makes no musical sense.
- I believe that discussing conflicting feedback with evaluators and explaining what is or is not pedagogically appropriate should be a positive avenue to high quality development, rather than being met with belittling accusations of “being negative.”
- I believe that some schools have made great efforts to ensure their arts curricula is using student work and assessment in ways that are appropriate for each subject, rather than imposing pedagogically irresponsible activities that devalue students’ musicianship and ignore necessary aural and visual assessments evaluators do not understand.
- I believe that it is ludicrous and irresponsible to say that my strengths and/or weaknesses are being realistically assessed, when in 3 years and 12 evaluations, NONE of my evaluators have been qualified to teach my class.
- I believe that reports of biased evaluators must be fully reported and investigated.
- I believe that employees should have the right to request a representative in ANY meeting, where they feel it is needed, regardless of the meeting’s official intent.
- I believe that taking a nationally recognized observance of supporting public education (“Wear Red for Public Ed.”), and prostituting it to look like some kind of red-shirt vs blue-shirt / evil vs good battle, is beyond shameful.
- I believe that it takes an evil soul to tell teachers that staying home and/or seeing a doctor when necessary is evidence that they don’t care about their students.
- I believe that the PECCA laws, flawed as they are, set up an avenue for collaboration between teachers and their boards of education and that our BOE (individually, and as a whole), blatantly refuses to do their due diligence in seeing the law carried out, at the same time, undermining the process by using a “teacher working group” to publicly feign interest in correcting deficiencies.
As I was making the decision to leave Knox County Schools, I thought that I might afford KCS one last chance to retain a highly qualified, experienced, content specialist and I interviewed for another position within the district. My question to the interviewer: “When you walk into a music classroom, what do you expect to see?”
I hope you will pause and imagine what you would want to see in a music classroom if you or your child were learning there. We might expect answers like, “Children making music,” “Singing, dancing, and playing instruments,” “Children learning to create their own sounds and motions,” or simply, “Joy.”
The hard face that looked back at me, gave none of those answers. I was told, “When I walk into a classroom, I expect to see every point on that rubric hit. Every one. There is no excuse for any teacher to not hit every one.” And it was clear to me, that this job is no longer about children. Knox County Schools serves only the rubric.