2011-02-18 / Letters

Dedicated Their Lives

Dear Editor,

The bill sponsored by State Senator Ruben Diaz and Assemblyman Jonathan Bing proposing to end the current “last in, first out” law should not be passed. Our local elected officials should not support it, or any attempt to end “last in, first out.”

The purpose of the current law is to keep politics and favoritism, which had been rampant previously, out of the educational system. What the Diaz-Bing bill will do, in effect, is subject teachers, assistant principals, and other educators – who have earned one or more master’s degrees, taken numerous post graduate credits, and successfully taught thousands of students – to a biased determination of who represents the “best.”

“Last in, first out” should only be abolished if a true meritocracy can be put in place. Otherwise, there is a very real danger that the system will be abused in order to terminate the highest salaries, as has happened many times in many industries. We must all remember our history or we will most certainly be doomed to repeat it.

Perhaps the following comments from Brian De Vale, Chairman of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, put it best:

(Excerpts of a Letter to the Editor appearing in a recent edition of the Queens Gazette)

LIFO Is Fair To All

…With over 20 years’ experience as both a teacher and principal, I have developed the greatest respect for the [staff] who work in my school and district. If [educators] do a poor job, it is the job of their principals to write them up, get them the proper support and training and if they do not work out get rid of them through progressive discipline.

It is not half as difficult for a competent principal to get rid of incompetent [staff] as the media would have you believe. …

This entire campaign against [educators], printed in the major media outlets each and every day is part of the antiunion agenda … [in an effort to] increase charter schools so public school enrollment declines, eliminate tenure so nobody can become a veteran, and lobby to keep newly hired, cheaper [educators] who usually leave within five years.

It has nothing to do with children, quality education or anything else. Tenure is necessary and “Last In- First Out” (LIFO) is the only fair way to protect employees from vindictive, sexist, homophobic and/or racist termination and the very real possibility of political retribution from their employers.

Why do you suppose so few principals venture to speak up? They are afraid!

To my young brethren starting out …. We have been where you are, and understand your predicament. The budget situation the city confronts was created by the man managing this city for the past too many years — not your colleagues. I would be sorry to see you lose your jobs, but LIFO is the only fair way to determine layoffs. …[W]ho said you are “better” [educators] anyway? … The only way workers will ever overcome the current administration’s onslaught against seniority is if all municipal unions stay united in support of LIFO protections.

There are many hard-working and dedicated residents of the Rockaways who have given their lives to serve our youth as teachers, deans, assistant principals, and principals. They will all be placed in serious jeopardy if “last in, first out” is abolished.

I therefore urge all of our elected officials to put their full support behind the continuance of the current “last in, first out” policy and law.

EDWARD J. COYNE JR.

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