I’m off to Paris in a few hours, just finishing up some housecleaning and packing chores, but if you might want to check out the TEP Charter School: it’s a school scheduled to open in Washington Heights in 2009. They base their whole plan around the recruitment, support, and retention of excellent, experienced teachers. They have a four-step application process that includes submission of test scores proving excellent verbal and mathematical skills, providing proof of successful teaching (at least three forms of proof), providing two writing samples of different lengths, providing an explanation of one’s pedagogical philosophy, an interview, and multiple observations of one’s teaching at one’s current school, complete with pre- and post-observation interviews. But if you’re hired, you make $125,000 per year! What do you give in exchange? How does the school pay for this? The school day is long, but structured to provide time for each teacher to take on one after school class and one school service position. The school service positions include most of the duties normally carried out by APs (or by team leaders like me! I mean, I already do a ton of this stuff and for no extra pay and minimal extra time), which allows the charter school to cut many mid-level administrative positions, freeing up money to pay teachers better. You also commit to a six-week summer session, when teachers meet to debrief the previous year and collaborate to plan and improve the following year (no kids). So, the year is longer, the day is officially longer (though probably not that different from many teachers’ current day, and much of the extra time appears to be focused on the stuff we often do on “our own time”), and the responsibilities are somewhat different. What I like is that the extra responsibilities are clearly spelled out and shared among a team of teachers, rather than falling primarily to those who happen to be capable of taking on a lot. And to get paid almost twice my current salary to do more-or-less what I do now, with clearer responsibilities and boundaries, and time built in to develop as professionals: well, who could argue with that?
There are some real risks to this model, of course: any new school is a gamble, and I wonder what happens when kids seriously misbehave in class (fight, etc.) and would normally be removed to an AP’s office? But the model is innovative enough, and pays so much better than anything I’ve seen around NYC, that it seems worth the gamble if you’re looking for a change. Can’t hurt to apply, that’s for sure!