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Teaching Jobs in Boston Eliminated

Posted on March 8, 2010

A shakeup at several Massachusetts schools today caused the elimination of several teaching jobs in Boston.

According to state officials, staff at six schools will have to reapply for their jobs and five principals will be replaced after the schools were listed among nearly three dozen statewide that will probably be declared “underperforming’’ and subject to drastic change.

Overall, 12 Boston schools face being listed as underperforming, slightly more than a third of the 35 schools statewide. The list includes the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester, long considered a barometer of Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s effectiveness in improving the city’s schools over the past 16 years.

According to Boston.com, The state’s action was the first under a two-month-old law requiring dramatic changes to overhaul the state’s lowest-performing schools. Superintendents will have three years to turn around these schools or face a state takeover.

In announcing the shake-up, Superintendent Carol R. Johnson said the schools must have top-notch staffs to successfully turn them around. She emphasized that staff members are not being fired and that employees not rehired could find work at other district schools.

“We feel it’s important for teachers to recommit themselves to the tough work ahead,’’ she said at a press conference at the Holland Elementary School in Dorchester, which was on the state’s list.

Johnson’s swift move drew the immediate ire of the teachers union, which accused her of trying to “evict’’ hard-working teachers and said it is exploring legal action.

But with the fate of 17,000 students at risk in the 35 targeted schools, state education officials said yesterday that radical change is imperative and needs to come swiftly. The students are overwhelmingly poor and of disadvantaged ethnic and racial groups.

“I’m worried about the kids,’’ Governor Deval Patrick said. “I’m worried about the kids being left behind. I’m worried about the kids getting the resources they need.’’

Massachusetts could receive an infusion of $250 million from the federal government to help these schools and others.

The US Department of Education announced yesterday that the state is among more than a dozen that will advance to the final round of President Obama’s Race to the Top competition, which will reward states that aggressively fix failing schools and expand independently run charter schools.

The list of underperforming schools is preliminary because the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has not yet approved regulations to execute provisions of the new state law. The board is expected to vote on those regulations later this month. The state released the list early because superintendents expressed eagerness to get started.

The schools are considered to be the worst of the worst, culled from a pool of roughly 370 schools, the bottom 20 percent of the state’s 1,846 schools, based on persistently low test scores. In developing the preliminary list, state education officials also weighed other factors, such as a school’s failure to meet federal education standards under the No Child Left Behind.