Volume 2 Issue 3

Opinion: Friday Morning, September 19: Conifer HS Graduate’s Letter

by a Recent Graduate of Conifer High School

I woke up this morning to an unprecedented number of posts, news articles, and videos
pertaining to the situation at Conifer High School and Standley Lake on my Facebook. I did not pay attention since I now reside out of state and am trying to wade my way through the next phase of life. I graduated from Conifer High School recently. After going about my business today, I have come back to find that the situation at Conifer and Standley is still topping my news feed. Emotional posts by students, protesting high school students, and an overall feeling of excitement.

Now, I am not surprised that the students are excited about a three day weekend, but I really am curious about the circumstances of today’s events. After looking into the situation at a deeper level, I found myself stunned and slightly ashamed of my local high school. From what I have read and what I have seen, it seems to me that these teachers are protesting a pay raise. What? Ok, let us go through this again.

According to ABC News 7, nearly forty percent of the teachers at Conifer high school decided not to show up to school, to protest a compensation model that rewards teachers who perform and do their jobs well. I repeat, what? Why would the inventive, creative and outstanding teachers that I have learned from and studied under for four years of my life choose to oppose something that rewards them for their hard work?

As I understand the policy voted on last night, September 18, there is a rating scale for teacher effectiveness: less than effective, partially effective, effective, and highly effective. This sounds strangely familiar, sort of like the grading system that I had in elementary school. In the policy, new teachers who have just entered the profession will receive a raise of at least 1 percent. All teachers rated as effective will receive a 2.43 percent raise. All teachers rated as highly effective will receive a raise of 4.25 percent. The only teachers who will not receive a raise are
those veteran teachers who rated as less than effective. There were only 66 less-than-effective teachers in the last evaluation.

In this system the school board is rewarding teachers who, based on the district’s criteria, effectively convey the material to students. Why is this a bad policy? Teachers are being evaluated, like any employee in the history of the world, on whether they are actually doing their job in an effective manner. I find it strange that these teachers who work hard and love what they do, do not wish to be recognized for their efforts. There is no doubt in my mind that the teachers at Conifer High School will perform beyond the expectations of any examination that the district can evaluate them upon. I knew them, I admired them, I respected them, and I loved them as my mentors.

It is contradictory to their profession that these teachers would not support an act that champions performers. Is it not what we are taught in school, to perform? To succeed? To
be the best that we can be? Why then do my teachers not stand by their own words and uphold a system that promotes the best environment for their students to grow,
expand, and succeed?

If my understanding is correct, it seems that these teachers do not want to be held to the same standard as their peers and by extension, their students. They do not see education as an evolving and changing field that needs constant work and creativity to create an environment that continues to accelerate students. They do not wish to achieve the potential greatness within each of them, by challenging themselves to challenge their students.

Honestly, I feel that my teachers have let me down. They have let down their community and they have let down their legacy. In Conifer, the high school has accelerated to a previously
unprecedented level of education and prestige. The community has started to become more involved within the school and has come to support the students and faculty more than ever
before. Conifer High School was on the rise, it was a source of pride, a flower that was just beginning to bloom.

It is disappointing to a graduate to see the school choose to mar the image that the community continues to strive to present and improve. I am ashamed that the teachers chose their political agenda, whether they will come out and say it or not, their union, over the education of their students and the respect of their community. There are other, more effective ways to develop and present a position than cutting school.