Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Height of Professionalism

You've got to be kidding me.

When the Gilroy Unified School District deemed a South Valley Middle School English teacher and an Eliot Elementary School second grade teacher identical in every way in terms of their qualifications, a judge flipped a coin to break the tie and determine which teacher was more senior, a decision that will affect the order in which teachers who received layoff notices will be hired back if the district has the resources to do so. When the coin fell, Jessica Chessani of Eliot won the prize. At this point, she still doesn't have a job next year. But when and if the district can, it will hire the teachers back in reverse order, based on their ranking. (boldface mine--Darren)

A judge decided this way.


Ronnie said...

Well if two people are equally deserving of something what's your better suggestion for deciding?

George said...

What's wrong with that? Given that they were "deemed ... identical in every way in terms of their qualifications", what do you think the judge should do? There is a long history of using coin flips to break ties, and it is eminently fair to do so.

Darren said...

It may be fair, but it doesn't strike me as "professional"--an act worthy of a respected profession.

Anonymous said...

"It may be fair, but it doesn't strike me as 'professional'--an act worthy of a respected profession."

I will (respectfully) disagree here. The school district has basically stated that there is NO professional difference between the two teachers. But ... they must be ranked somehow for purposes of being laid off. Claiming that they are completely interchangeable is an act of cowardice by the district/principal/whoever, but once that person has ducked, this is pretty much the ONLY valid way to order them.

I'll make an analogy. I'm an engineer. Sometimes it is important that a project select a way to do SOMETHING and there are several ways that are basically equally good. In these cases, I much prefer that we either:

1) pick randomly, or
2) assign ONE engineer to make the decision.

I STRONGLY object to voting (because voting on engineering decisions rapidly leads to avoiding making hard engineering decisions). Either there is a correct answer and we need to find it, OR we just need to be consistent, but there isn't a clearly better solution. In the case of "just be consistent", I much prefer a coin flip to any other decision mechanism.

This strikes me as the same FROM THE JUDGES VIEWPOINT. At the very least, he/she hasn't pretended that there is any valid way to select from between the two teachers.

[But the district/principal/etc has massively copped out.]

-Mark Roulo

Dr Pezz said...

As odd as it sounds, elections have been decided this way too.

I wonder if their educational backgrounds were equal as well.

Lord Holdhurst said...

I don't think that these two people were completely equal in their qualifications. One of them was going to lose to the other in a Rock, Paper, Scissor game. Unless they chose the same as the other every single time (which would be spooky).

But seriously, a coin flip. We decide who chooses to kick off or receive at the beginning of a football game, not decide who gets their job back first.

I think that the evaluators could look a little closer to find out which one was slightly better than the other before resorting to such methods of decision making, it sounds like they just don't care.

Donalbain said...

As someone says, elections have been decided on this, and given that the two were, according to the information supplied to the judge, equal, it seems a fair way to decide.

But, I am compelled to ask, what happened the age old idea of "last in first out"?

Mrs. C said...

Hey, my son won a chess tournament because his LAST NAME was alphabetically closer to "A" than the other kid.

With a coin toss at least you have a chance, although it seems like a petty schoolyard way to settle a debate for something as important as a job.

george said...

[I]t seems like a petty schoolyard way to settle a debate for something as important as a job.

Heh. How many hiring committees have you been on, by the way?

Anyway, this reminds me of the story of the donkey who starved while standing between two identical piles of hay, because it couldn't come up with a reason to choose one over the other. Sometimes a coin flip actually is the best, most intelligent, fairest way to make a decision.

Anonymous said...

"But, I am compelled to ask, what happened the age old idea of 'last in first out'?"

It seems that they were hired on the same day (or at least in the same administrative period used for determining seniority). From the fine article:

"She explained that, in the eyes of the district, the two women were neck and neck in terms of hire date, certifications, committee service and salary."

I will sadly notice that none of these criteria seem to cover "goodness at doing their job." I'd like to think that one of them is a bit better than the other. It doesn't seem like this is one of the valid criteria for firing, though (the formula provided in the article seems to be "first date of paid probationary service" followed by a list of tie-break items for people who have the same date. None of the items involve actual success or failure at teaching the kids).

-Mark Roulo