This is the second in a set of posts on the Hartford schools. If you haven't read the first part, you can find it here: Hartford's Brain Drain: Part 1
As discussed in Part 1, "support" for teachers can be as simple as having enough staff to do the job.
It can also mean having your professional opinion and insight valued by your school community and its leaders.
One frequently leveled accusation is that Hartford is a "top down" organization with teachers getting their marching orders but having little input into processes and new initiatives.
"There was a total lack of support or respect for my professional opinion,” one former teacher told me. This educator left, "... to work someplace where teachers played a greater role in decision making." Those schools are out there.
Many successful school systems work to promote a horizontally integrated workplace. In these schools the emphasis is on communication and consensus building. Unlike in the top down model, ideas and initiatives flow from both teaching staff and administrators.
"When the people with power truly value the PROCESS of quality education it can make all the difference in the morale of the school," wrote former Hartford teacher, Leah Toffolon. She left HMMS to teach in Putney a few years ago and didn't mind me using her name because, as she put it, "I have nothing to lose."
It's telling that Leah was the only teacher I spoke with who was comfortable with me printing her name. One reader wrote me to say, "... I can't comment on the blogs because I am related to someone who works in the district, and I do fear reprisals."
Luckily, we have the opportunity to begin charting a new course. There are two principal positions opening up in the district next year, one at the high school and one at the middle school. Thanks to Paul Keane’s sudden departure there is also a vacancy on the school board.
We should look to recruit leaders with a proven track record of democratic leadership, who will be able to partner with teachers and staff to improve morale. If Hartford wants to attract and retain excellent teachers, we must make sure they get the respect and support they need to thrive.