Ex-union head will run charter schools

After fighting charter schools in Los Angeles as head of the teachers’ union, A.J. Duffy plans to start charter schools that will make it harder for teachers to earn tenure, reports the Los Angeles Times.

And if a tenured teacher becomes ineffective, he wants to streamline dismissals. The process now in place can stretch out for several years, even with substantial evidence of gross misconduct. Some union leaders, notably Duffy, have defended this “due process” as a necessary protection against administrative abuses.

“I would make it 10 days if I could,” Duffy now says of the length of the dismissal process.

Duffy, 67, will be executive director of Apple Academy Charter Public Schools, which hopes to open one or more schools in south Los Angeles by the fall of 2012.

Caprice Young, who ran the California Charter Schools Association, will serve on Duffy’s board.  Young was president of the Los Angeles Unified school board till United Teachers of Los Angeles mounted a successful campaign to oust her in 2003.

A.J. Duffy and Caprice Young are collaborating on charter schools? Repent of your sins.

While opposing charter schools, Duffy tried to unionize them.

. . . he argued for charter school-like freedoms at traditional schools, running up against the L.A. Unified bureaucracy and, frequently, his own union’s reluctance to risk weakening contract protections.

Duffy’s Apple schools will be unionized, though UTLA will have to agree to his new systems for granting tenure and firing teachers.

Under his tenure model, teachers would undergo a three-year probationary period, with a review by the principal and an experienced mentor or “master teacher” after two years that would enable them to continue on to the third year or be let go.

After the third year, they would earn tenure for two years, after which they would have to be recertified. After each tenure period, they would earn an additional year of tenure before undergoing the next recertification.

Teacher dismissal would be decided by binding arbitration within a 10 to 20-day period after the principal and master teacher agree the teacher should be fired. Under the current system, firing a teacher can take years.

In a large, bureaucracy such as Los Angeles Unified, “it continues to be necessary for teachers to be overly protected, but I have always said that UTLA would be willing to give up certain traditional protections if they got in return academic autonomy,” Duffy told AP.

He hopes to hire union teachers from the Crescendo network, which lost its charter this spring after a cheating scandal.