Negative social media posts having ill effects
Published 10:20 am Tuesday, May 24, 2016
No. 2 Pencil by Mike Funk
We are starting to see inappropriate social media posts throughout our community. Students have indicated that they see adults doing it, so they should be able to as well. This behavior is disturbing on a number of professional levels.
Last week, the Star Tribune wrote about this. It discussed how successful veteran high school coaches are quitting their positions because of the negativity they receive from social media. This trend is also impacting our district. In Albert Lea, the critics indicate that our school culture is bad. Why is this? Because individuals can post on social media about our district with no consideration of the consequence. They do not realize the negative impact on our schools and community. This hurts economic development, for a quality school system is a key appeal for potential business.
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As your superintendent, I am committed to providing the best education possible for our students. In District 241, the needs of the student come first. Our administration and teachers collaborate to ensure this. Our curriculum is vetted through large groups of teachers before it is adopted. We want our students to receive the best instruction possible. If a teacher is struggling, we provide coaching, and if necessary, place them on an improvement plan. If a teacher is not developing professionally in their first three years in the district, we replace them. Tenured staff receive the same supports, but are rarely replaced. We average about 200 tenured staff members a year. In my seven years in Albert Lea, we have terminated one tenured staff member.
Social media would have one believe teachers are quitting, fearful, and being bullied. We have averaged about a 3 percent annual attrition rate for tenured staff during my time in Albert Lea. If there is a conflict between a staff member and management, a grievance can be filed. During this school year, we have had one grievance filed by the ALEA (teacher’s union) for a professional staff member. This grievance was settled in a couple of weeks with mutual agreement by both parties. We average a couple of grievances a year. Not one grievance has gone to arbitration in the last seven years.
Teachers are stressed. Teaching in the 21st century is a challenging profession. We are a high poverty district with high expectations. We ask staff members to adhere to a specific curriculum. In some cases, we are asking teachers to eliminate projects they have taught for years, that are not aligned to the Minnesota standards. If teachers have different points of view, they have the opportunity to share through their professional learning communities, curriculum committees and their administration.
Individuals external to the district hear concerns and exploit them on social media. This approach creates a level of disrespect for our district. If someone else has negative thoughts, these are now commonly shared. This is a disservice to the vast majority of professionals doing great things. Unfortunately, our kids see this, and begin to copy the behavior of the adults.
Because of the impact I see on our students, I am compelled to write. People who are critical of our culture through the media, (particularly when they have no professional association with the district) are hurting our community, and are portraying the wrong type of role model for our students.
Albert Lea Area Schools is well on its way to becoming a first-class school system. We are proud of our community partnerships, improved high school graduation rates, increase in elementary proficiency, upgrades to our building infrastructure and expanded technology, while holding the line on taxes.
On behalf of the hundreds of hardworking employees and thousands of students in our district, thank you for your support. As a district we will continue to advocate for high student achievement.
Mike Funk is the superintendent of Albert Lea Area Schools.