Charters, Tenure, and Hungry Kids

So it appears a principal at a charter school was fired because she didn’t want to humiliate low-income children who needed food:

Former Peak to Peak elementary principal Noelle Roni said Sunday she was fired by the Lafayette charter school after she demanded that cafeteria workers stop stamping the hands of children – including those who qualified for the free lunch program – when their lunch accounts were empty.

“As soon as I saw it happening, I was like, ‘No, this is not OK,’” she told the Daily Camera. “The students felt so humiliated, like they had done something wrong. They didn’t want to go into the lunchroom any more. It’s unethical and disrespectful.”

….According to the memo from her lawyer, Roni discovered in September that cafeteria workers were stamping the hands of children in the lunch line who didn’t have money in their accounts to pay for a school lunch. She asked the food services manager to stop the practice, but the stamping continued.

Roni then met with the food services manager and school leadership, including Reeser, who agreed that the hand stamping should stop, according to the memo. The food services manager immediately resigned.

Three weeks later, a grandparent came to Roni upset that her grandchildren, who qualified for free lunches, were getting their hands stamped and were too embarrassed to go through the lunch line. A staff member also brought up a similar situation with a kindergarten student.

That’s horrible, but this is a key point that hasn’t been touched on:

A memo prepared by Roni’s lawyer, Alexander Halpern, also claims her firing wasn’t valid because it was done by an administrator instead of a public vote by the school’s board as required by the Lafayette charter school’s bylaws.

“The violation of the open meetings law is part of an ongoing pattern of conduct by the board to terminate Ms. Roni without the knowledge or participation of the school membership or, indeed, Ms. Roni herself,” Halpern wrote in the memo.

The great myth in our discourse surrounding education is that Bold, Visionary Leaders are unable to fire Poor Performers due to tenure protection (never mind that tenure in the K-12 system only means that you can’t be fired at will; it’s not like collegiate tenure which is much stronger). Well, here’s a case where tenure protection would have helped keep a principal who didn’t want to humiliate poor kids. That’s supposed to be a good thing. Let’s not even get to the issue of what tenure protection means for biology teachers.

Yes, there are people who abuse tenure. But there’s no reason to trust charter school boards any more than principals or teachers, as this case illustrates.

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