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A teacher’s perspective: Firing Day at a Charter School

Firing Day at a Charter School

An image of Dany Edwards. Art by Sean Flaherty, who was also fired from this charter school on June 1, 2011.

Originally posted by Nancy Bloom in CoLab Radio.

I just quit my job as a teacher in an urban charter school. Even though I still don’t have another job and I support myself entirely, it is the best decision I ever made. It is especially liberating this week while my colleagues – and after five incredibly stressful years on the education front lines, my truly beloved friends – wait for the June 1 ax to fall.

Every June 1, the exhausted teachers and staff at my school learn whether they will be rehired for another grueling year. Last year the school gave 43 staff and teachers the you’re-outta-luck-pal letters, including the entire three-man physical education department and the student support genius, Dany Edwards, who somehow made harmony out of the schools’ cacophony of crazy student behavior. This year the school’s three glorious new gymnasiums are largely unused because we have no gym teachers and Dany is dead of unknown causes. Whatever happened to this beautiful young man, firing him didn’t help him live any better or happier for his last few months on earth. And the kids he championed lost his tender, tough, hilarious and real guidance.

This post is dedicated to you Dany, one year after you ran from the building in frantic disbelief, waving your letter as you ran up and down Hyde Park Avenue, looking for people to share your grief. If they can fire you, they can fire any of us. Except they can’t fire me. I beat them at their game.

The first thing you need to know reader, is that there is no job security at a charter school. Even excellent veteran educators, like the three physical education teachers who were fired one year ago, are vulnerable. Between them these men gave something like 35 years to the school. They offered serious nutrition education in their fight against childhood obesity. They miraculously coached kids who have hair trigger tempers through team sports without break-out fights. They taught the kids good sportsmanship and how to represent themselves, their families and the school during games at other schools. They taught yoga, which the kids actually used to calm themselves in class. And they worked the kids hard. Oh how I miss seeing the kids come to class from gym all red and sweaty and happy. This gymless year, the kids seem fatter and more out of breath as they huff and puff their way to the third floor.

To you Michelle Rhee and all you anti-union fanatics, you are wasting your time waiting around for superman. They already fired superman at my school. You see a union would have protected Dany as well as these three talented teachers who provided quality physical education to all of our 1200 students. Meanwhile, some not-so-gifted staff and teachers get to keep their jobs every June 1. At least public schools and their unions have transparent guidelines for tenure and enough respect to let teachers know they won’t be rehired for the next school year by March or earlier. June 1 is late to jump into the teacher hiring season. I suspect the administration keeps it a secret to the bitter end because they don’t trust us to keep working hard. They are suspicious and we are paranoid. It’s part of my school’s culture.

The second thing to know is that we work very hard at my charter school, completing endless tasks that are not designed to instill habits of critical thinking in our students. Rather we are driven like cattle to collect mounds of data, to divvy the data up into tidy and irrelevant skill categories, and finally to create individual action plans to remediate each student’s poor data points. We are required to write lesson plans that note exactly which discreet skills we will be working on during every minute of every school day while delivering scripted programs. It takes hours to make these plans and we don’t use them. Can’t use them. Because kids are unpredictable and surprises happen. Most of us work at least ten hours on every weekday preparing our rooms and teaching. We continue working on weekends. The building is open on Saturdays and during vacations and there are a lot of cars in the parking lot on these days off.

This heavy workload doesn’t even take into account the trauma and anguish of working with urban children who suffer all the indignities of poverty. One day last week I had to file three mental health emergencies for neglect – two for kids who reeked of urine and one for a boy who was wobbly with hunger. One of our school psychologists once explained that many of our students come to school afraid and then stay afraid all day, afraid that their home or family may not be there when they get off the bus. These are the kids who constantly disrupt the classrooms. If Dany had been allowed to continue his ministerial work, he would still be providing discipline, safety and love for these broken children. And he would be giving us teachers rock solid support without judgement in our struggle to keep these kids learning. The school psychologist said she prayed for the students’ safety every night. In case you are wondering, she quit before they got a chance to fire her.

Our workload is a favorite theme of the school’s superintendent and CEO. Charter school leaders love these business style titles. Dr. CEO often chuckles during all-staff meetings at how we charter school teachers work harder than they do in Boston Public Schools and get paid less for our troubles. Apparently he doesn’t know how insulting this is. Last December a group of administrators entertained us during a holiday party with a school version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas that included a verse about how little we get paid for our hefty workload. That was the last time I worked a ten-hour day and the moment I knew I had to quit.

The third and last thing for you to know is that psychological torture precedes the June 1 firing ritual in the form of annual performance reviews. It looks like our new principal has brought this final blow to a new level. I’ve talked to many teachers and they report the same experience. He begins the review with gracious smiles and copious thank-yous for our commitment and hard work. And then he trashes our performance. So many of us have “failed to meet professional standards,” you would think the school could barely function. Teachers are leaving their performance reviews convinced their June 1 letter will be very bad news. They have to sweat it out to June 1.

The most disturbing part is that the principal already knows who will be rehired. And he knows which teachers have especially compelling reasons to stay one more year. But he keeps them guessing. He doesn’t even give them a reassuring wink or a thumbs up. Just a fake thank you. Another administrator asked me last week if people were freaking out, and then changed our plans for getting a drink after work on June 1. “I don’t want be out when people are all upset about losing their jobs.”

This week it feels like the school’s windows have been draped with heavy black curtains and the fluorescent ceiling lights are flickering. The kids are more difficult than ever and we don’t have Dany to let the sunlight in. No matter what happens Dany, I will never work in another charter school. That’s the least I could do.


95 thoughts on “A teacher’s perspective: Firing Day at a Charter School

  1. It’s sad to read that charter schools in Seattle Mirror the ones we have here in NYC. I thought it would be different elsewhere. How can the students even be learning in that type of environment. All it’s teaching them is that anyone they establish and emotional bond with is going to leave.

    1. Hello Stephan,
      I’m conducting research on the experiences of former charter schools. I would love to hear your story and hopefully have your story enrich my research. The research is 100% anonymous. Please reach out to me at

      I’m a PhD student and your help and support would be so incredibly appreciated.


  2. It’s so great to find this forum. The public has NO idea what goes on in charter schools. NO CLUE. I worked at The Academy Charter School in Hempstead NY. The abuse was intolerable. But the craziest part was that it isn’t just the teachers being mistreated, it’s the students too.
    I saw panic attacks in my school, racist rants by board members at social functions, fights between admininstrators and teachers when they refused to pay teachers for helping with parent workshops at night. It was a nightmare. Teachers literally disappeared and staff, parents and students were never told what happened to them.
    There was a clergyman who spoke at one of our parties. He carried on about how he didn’t want his son being taught by white people and explained why that could not be beneficial to his child. Every white teacher hung their head and said not a word. I am not white but I was shocked and offended. Afterwards, I asked some of them how they felt about that commentary and they shook their heads and refused to ariculate their actual feelings. No one would dare put into words how those comments made them feel.
    We had something called gains parties where children would go to parties if they improved their reading levels. Children who stayed at the same level and did not excel stayed in the classroom and were not allowed to participate. Imagine the tears and confusion. But almost as bad were the angry parents who did not want their child being punished this way. They contacted the administration to see if they could pick up their child early and avoid the whole spectacle and admins either avoided the parents or flat out told them no. I was told to keep my mouth shut and not to tell parents the date and time of the parties.
    Teachers worked on holidays and school breaks and administrators picked and chose what they would pay us for. If you taught an after school club and counted on that money to supplement your income, you’d be pulled from that session and forced into teaching a workshop and told you wouldn’t be paid.
    I remember during February vacation, the principal gave us homework. Yes, homework. I remember taking it with me on our vacation. My colleagues could not believe it. And who replaced the teachers that kept disappearing? Other charter school teachers who had far worse stories. Stories about how administrators would pit teachers against each other based on student performance. They would relish humiliating teachers and students who could not keep up and excel.

    Charter schools will continue in large part because teaching positions are impossible to come by and far too many people are certified especially in New York. Young inexperienced teachers are taken advantage of, lied to, coerced into unethical practices. ALL charter schools should be unionized. They are breeding grounds for abuse and racism.

    1. Can I have your official name and credientials to you cite you as evidence for Speech and Debate Nationals?

    2. Hello Marie,
      I’m conducting research on the experiences of former charter schools. I would love to hear your story and hopefully have your story enrich my research. The research is 100% anonymous. Please reach out to me at

      I’m a PhD student and your help and support would be so incredibly appreciated.


  3. I got my first teaching job at a inner city charter school. That is by far the worse mistake I’ve ever made. I’m so tired of getting up at 4 and getting home at 6 just to continue to work till 8 to be as best prepared for the next day. Then I get ripped on evaluations because my desk is messy and my pacing isn’t fast enough. I know I’m not perfect at this job yet but I’m trying my best and doing everything I can to keep the peace in the classroom but its not enough for my higher ups. It’s never enough for my higher ups. When March rolls around I’m going to job hunt for anything else. If I can’t find a public school job I would rather join the military and start another career trade then go through another year of this.

    1. Hello Ryan,
      I’m conducting research on the experiences of former charter schools. I would love to hear your story and hopefully have your story enrich my research. The research is 100% anonymous. Please reach out to me at

      I’m a PhD student and your help and support would be so incredibly appreciated.


  4. I was fired from a charter school in the Bronx. I did not get to say goodbye to any of my students. It was towards the end of the school year. I was a second year teacher with very little support/mentorship. My story sounds similar to other teachers who have been fired from charter schools. It is all too common that some of us sign up to work at a charter school with no idea how disposable teachers are for the tyrants who run some of these schools. With all this said, my kids attend a charter school, because I know first hand that the young energetic teachers that are hired will be forced to produce miraculous results as though they are work mules, until they are replaced with other teachers who will enter and exit the revolving charter school door. In any case, I do not recommend charter schools for teachers.

  5. I am not even in for one month and I have began to detest the way of teaching. I wanted to be in the classroom to help students succeed academically. I went from an Afterschool program to a charter.

    My co-workers look like zombies (plastics).

    I need a way out urgently. If I get another job with the same pay rate today, I would say bye and would not include such experience on my resume.

    I have anxiety every morning thinking about getting up 4am and getting back home for 8pm.

    1. Yes, I agree. Charter school teachers must be plastic. It is part of the school culture. If charter school does not take over you life, then you are lucky. Get out while you can.

  6. Firing Day has begun at the charter school I worked at, they started the tradition last year. This year 5 of us, including myself, were let go, on the direction of a new batch of child APs with nearly zero teaching, let alone administrative experience. I was told that I was “contentious” (read: I ask too many uncomfortable questions when a policy put in place by the CMO in their downtown Manhattan offices shockingly doesn’t work so well with our poverty-stricken South Bronx students) and therefore “not a good fit for the collegial atmosphere of the school” (read: despite being loved by students and doubling test pass rates in 3 subjects, I haven’t kissed the right asses). I had to spend yesterday morning consoling 4 of my students who were in tears because “the only teacher who really cares about them is leaving.”

    The public thinks all charters are magical wonderlands of innovation & success. Mine was a misguided, poorly managed, mediocre-performing (when the graduation rates weren’t fudged), data-mining operation who puts the needs of students in MAYBE 3rd place (1: CMO, 2: admin), with teachers dead last.

  7. I just got fired from Charter Schools USA for calling HR. It was complete and total retaliation. The Principal even called me an “idiot” on several occasions.

  8. I completely understand what everyone here is feeling. I too work at a charter and it’s horrible. This is my second year teaching. Last year, I taught in south LA which was horrific. The administration was a click and gave preferential treatment to teachers who didn’t suck up to them. They were bullies and evaluated teachers based on their personal feelings about them. There was no cilurriculum! Student behaviors were not just unappropriate but ilegal, and all admin would do was blame teachers for the actions of students. The workload was insane. I was putting in about 65 hours a week with a salary of $40,000. This year, I’m at a different charter in LA (it’s difficult to get into public schools). This one is better but I still hate it. No curriculum, again. The workload isn’t sustainable. I went into teaching super excited about helping kids and families but my professional goals have changed. I actually hate teaching now and only continuing to clear my credential. I don’t know what I’m going to do next. All I know is that I need to get out to save my sanity. These charters are businesses! I see it in their actions and in their placement of funds. Leeches.

  9. Thank you for exposing the unconscionable behavior by your charter school. I applaud you for having the courage to stand up to administrative bullying and for defending your colleagues and everyone who has experienced what you have. After reading the comments, I am seeing that what you are describing is undoubtedly wide spread. We need to continue to educate everyone as to the many flaws charter schools encompass. That is the only way to keep them from spreading. By getting the word out. Many people are CLUELESS when it comes to what charter schools are about and who owns them. Hopefully, every state will do what Mass. did. Do not lift the cap for charter schools. Try to close as many as we can.
    My heart goes out to every person who has written a comment and has suffered because of these deplorable people.

  10. I was teaching at this private school in San Francisco about two months ago, then on November 1, 2016-the principal handed me a letter, one final paycheck and a severance pay. The letter said I was being let go due to a budget constraint. The principal of this school is just terrible. The school lacks space for teachers to teach, it’s above a church, no heat except in the main classroom, students never show up on time or do any homework, the school day is for 3.75 hours, and lack of communication with the parents with the teachers is just awful. I wish I had my teaching job back and wish a state agency would take over the school.

  11. Been a public school teacher for 20 years.
    My evaluations were all exceeds expectations
    Never had been written up for any disobeyed rule; as we say I did not have a “folder”.
    I was fortunate to have just received Teacher of the Year in my field of the entire state.
    Moved cities; taught for a Charter School.
    Was injured on the job by a student. They said I had to take a drug test. I did not have anything to hide.
    Except I am a female and I really did not appreciate a male watching me urinate in a cup. I was notified And tested positive for
    My disability.
    Long story short … they fired me, i filed a grievance (which they did not even go by their own teachers handbook) they retaliated and said well I am going to turn you into the State
    Board of Education for testing positive on a drug test.
    After many lawyer fees, me following all timely grievance processes (which again they did not)
    Almost a year later I am tied up w the SBEC
    Can not teach, and possibly facing my LIFE teaching certificate away.
    Can anyone help me?

    1. I wish I could help. I am in a similar situation. 18 years of teaching with awards twice…and fired from a private school for no reason. Now in litigation. I hope you win.

      1. Teachers are so abused in this country, it is unbelievable. It seems there is an education mafia that keeps teachers oppressed and students ignorant, so they can make more and more money by providing services for the low level us students. They are low level because teachers are not allowed to teach in this country, they babysit!

    2. Horrible. I wish I had read about charter schools before teaching at one. They are really bad in how they think they can abuse teachers. More of us should write to the federal government because they use public money, just like public schools and they should provide good education, but they are not

  12. Wow, it’s amazing for me to read because I thought that I was the outlier when it came to teacher treatment at charter schools. I love teaching; both the content (history) and the chance to work with students really engage me. However, working at a charter school almost killed my enthusiasm. I was so excited to start my career with about 40k and some classes to make my own. The kids were phenomenal, there were rarely discipline problems and I felt connections and engagements that I had not felt up to that point in my life and really made me feel like the BA and MA slog to teaching certification made it worthwhile. Also, the parents gave teacher food so, really, it covered almost all the right bases.

    It was the administrators that killed it. There was no protection from them if you pissed them off; they held on to the very feelings they regularly told students to let go and used them to determine policy. At best, the admins at the bottom of ruling ladder were rubber stumps, smiling faces used to distort the real bs they threw around. At worst, the admins were cruel, self-righteous, and hypocrites. The positive behavior I learned were from the veteran teachers and my own periods of self-reflection; I developed paranoia and crippling self-doubt from the admins.

    Now, I realized the admins were bs halfway through year one, but I accepted it because the kids were so great. This isn’t bragging, but I founded 3 clubs and chaperoned as many events as possible because I loved the kids so much. I have a flash drive with pre-made recommendation letters for up and coming seniors so the second they ask for one I can send it their way. I compare the impact they made, the high-achievers and the struggling ones, on me on par with my parents, my partner, and my closest friends. I stuck it out for two years, and was prepping for another potential two, because I wanted to see my freshmen graduate and see the process of their maturation. As someone who probably won’t have kids, this was most likely the closest I’ll have to being a proud parent.

    The admins decided otherwise; I’m guessing the principal settled on axing me in March or April, after the major competition my Civics team participated in, so they got the most use out of me. I was informed of an “end of year meeting” the week before Memorial Day, and it was delayed conveniently until June 2nd/3rd, the day AFTER teachers could inform admins they wouldn’t be returning. The principal-in-chief, with the head of schools there as well, invited me in an hour before my last class. The second I dropped my bum on the chair I was told I wasn’t being rehired because:
    A) I regularly showed up at 7:25 when they wanted teachers to be there by 7:20.
    B) I slide down a railing on schools premises after concluding an after school club meeting, far after school hours ended.
    C) I was ‘hard to find’ during study hall. Apparently they couldn’t both looking in my office, the main study room, or the social studies dept. study room.
    There were other reasons, but it can be considered that none were particular reasons to let me go. These were things to ask teachers not to do, not let them go. I was then informed to be “careful” who I tell about the news because I was under contract until June 26th. I was devastated but so ready to go after they threw that caveat. The admins viewed us as replaceable cogs in a “school of choice”. We had the choice to either leave with dignity or in a mess. The next few weeks were filled with them “checking up on me”, and keeping tabs through teachers on my behavior.

    I gave them nothing to justify terminating my contract. I then experienced two of some of the hardest moments of my life. The first, on a bus coming back from graduation next to one of my favorite students. He talked, at length, how excited he would be to enroll in my world history class and have me as his teacher again. When he asked why I was crying he accepted the excuse of being emotional over graduation, and he remarked how sad it was to see people leave but “at least it means a new group of kids will be there to be taught by teachers like me!” I lost it when I got back to the school and cried for a solid few minutes in my office.

    The second hardest was telling the students I was leaving. I spent my last working day at that school walking around and informing students (the staff knew a week ahead). I still rate it as one of the worst moments of my life telling my students I wouldn’t be returning because of a “job opportunity” closer to my partner. They had me lie to children who trusted me and I cannot forgive that nonsense. I had students tearing up in my office and me having to lie and reassure them that this “move top my partner” was a nice change. To this day, I still occasionally talk to the students, mainly for those recommendations, and still lie to them why I left.

      1. I cannot accept that in this country, educated professionals have no protection. Even McDonalds employees have protection

    1. I was fired by some evil admin but I told my kids on the last day that it was her decision not mine. 21 fourth grade students in tears. They stormed after the principal who fired me. I didn’t stop them, what did I have to lose. After reading your post I feel I did the right thing telling my kids the truth.

  13. I had a very bad experience with a Charter School: unappropriated property for a a school, very rude and arrogant staff (coordinators, administrative assistants, some teachers too), pathetic rules,treat the children with sarcasm and I think there are many more problems I did not realize. And for now I want to spread the world AGAINST Charter Schools. They think they are great, but they are NOT! I know there are good charter schools but there are two near me and they are bad and since they take money from traditional public schools with the argument “oh…a better choice for the students that need better Education????”This is a JOKE !!!! There are public schools MUCH better than these two Charter Schools. I know!

  14. I empathize with you all since my wife is also a teacher who has gone thru the exact same experiences. I think it is a good opportunity to unite and denounce these school behaviours to the federal government.

  15. I am a teacher. My secondary endorsement is in mathematics, science and ESL. I am in very high demand. I started at a new charter school during a spring semester and when the semester was over I decided not to return even though they wanted to extend my contract. This summer I want in for an interview at a different charter school. They wanted to hire me on the spot. When I asked them about the salary they stated it was the same as the public school district so I said yes. I started my paperwork right then. It took about 1 1/2 hours. They give me the teacher uniforms (a few shirts, etc). At the end I asked for the written document stating my salary so I could have it for my records. That is when they notified me they don’t do contracts there and it was hourly and they weren’t sure what they wanted to pay me and they would decide after I started working. I stated that I would need my pay rate before my first work date. I then went home. When I opened up my e-mail there was one from the charter school retracting “the offer” that I had never gotten in the first place. I was shocked! Even if you work somewhere making minimum wage you will sign off on documents agreeing to that rate. No pay rate/salary documents were given to me and when I asked I lost the opportunity to work there!

  16. Charter schools are bad. My special needs child was denied at two schools. Now I’m grateful for public school my son is able to attend.

  17. This is exactly what I have witnessed as a parent. I had to take my child out of school in March because of loss of faith in the school leaders. The children we acting like they were in a science experiment of erratic behavior and the school leaders were in support of this madness of dangerous and mentally and physically abuse toward kids without behavior problems and exclusions students. The charter school only had 2 returning teachers from the previous year. The classrooms were a fire hazard with over 30 kids in each small classroom. Then witnessing kids stomping, spitting, fighting, fondling themselves and touching others along with a myriad of other nasty things and the school leaders would say to the non violent kid they can’t control themselves but you can so you get out of their way and if you hit back you will be published severely. There is so much more but to ruin several children by allowing abuse with no real consequences and with ilequipped new teachers and mentally and physically scaring kids that are brilliant is to much to bare. Our children are doomed if we don’t get it together.

  18. I worked in a charter school for 3 months. My experiences weren’t exactly the same as this, but the parallels are striking. From the overwork (was putting in 60 to 70 hours per week on $33k a year with over $60k in student debt and a masters degree), the de-professionalized curriculum, the condescending administrators (not one of which had any previous experience or credentials in education before starting the school), I had to leave before I has a mental breakdown.

  19. I work at a charter school. I can honestly say that the lack of professionalism and organizing is huge. Management talks to the teachers like they are students and belittles us in front of our students. I have never felt so unappreciated and overwhelmed with work in my life. The sad part is that I get paid about $6,000 less than I would in a public school. Unfortunately, all public positions were full, so here I am. We get evaluations 2/3 a week, are responsible for reporting test scores every week, and teach students by high stakes testing. It is so annoying. And don’t get me started with the invisible school policies and rules, the lack of resources and supplies. We
    have to purchase our own printer paper to make copies. I can not wait to get an actual teaching job for the county. I will run very far and not look back. I will not even put them on my resume bc administration seems shady, so I rather be safe than sorry. Great post. I may just quit but need the extra change right now. I want to say screw it, but my heart goes out to the students.

    1. A good way to get into a public school is to substitute. Most districts need strong subs and will call you back regularly. Some even have a permanent sub position which guarantees you work each day; then if an opening arises, you will be the likely hire since you’ve already proven yourself. However, I must say, public schools have atrocious administrators as well who can be equally abusive and/or incompetent. Any teacher without tenure is at will and can be let go without any reason being given other than “we don’t think it’s a good fit”, and many fail students just as dismally. So much for the union. I honestly wouldn’t advise anyone to become a public school/charter teacher even though I have loved my students. Maybe strong private schools exist, though I’m sure many are equal to charters. It’s difficult, though perhaps not impossible, to find a school where a young teacher’s idealism is appreciated, nurtured, and sustained. Still, my advise is to consider all of your options.

  20. I was just sent to the office where I was told that it was in the best interest of the school for me to leave, and it was my last day. I don’t know what happened, Can charter schools just fire teachers with no reason? I wasn’t re-hired last year by a charter school because I am not bi-lingual, which they knew when they hired me.

    1. This just happened to my fiancé too. Let go in May and he has no idea why they wouldn’t even let him finish out the year. We don’t know how much it will damage his future job prospects. Shell shocked. This charter school in Boston does not give teachers resources to manage the classroom, so kids run amock and the nobody ends up learning. These types of school are hurting working families and killing our future, all with a sanctimonious smile fronting their false promises.

      1. Yes, i agree. The same s..t happens in Florida. Unbelievable. My question is “where can we complain to the federal government? Maybe the state senator? Someone has to take at least one charter school to court

  21. Thanks for writing… I was considering leaving a public school to teach at a charter due to the charter’s location (two hours away from my current city, where my girlfriend lives), but had SERIOUS doubts after hearing their evaluation practices that seemed draconian at best. Reading this article was the last straw. No thanks charter schools.

  22. I am a public school teacher and I can tell you that the climate of fear is alive and well in my district (and probably most others). I went into teaching because I want to be helping children and doing what is best for them. The oppressive climate brought on by NCLB, Common Core and high stakes testing has permeated the public school system and seeks to destroy teacher unions. It is counterproductive and even damaging to the children as well as the teachers. This story illustrates what would happen to our public schools without teacher unions.

  23. there is nothing worse and nothing more potentially damaging to young minds than a charter school run by far right wing and even worse, far right wing bible makes my skin crawl thinking about some kid being taught that the world is 6000 yrs old, that unions are evil and everything they say on fox news is true.

  24. Just did my 1st year at a charter school in La Marque Texas. I was not given a non renewal and I put in 60 hours a week. They failed to meet the state assessment standards and the school is getting ready to lose its accreditation. The principal often would tell us to pass the students if they are a “few points” below passing and offer them “special projects” to get them up to passing. They are losing 75% of their teachers and I question myself why they would not renew someone that was never late, always was at my duty station in the morning, was the only one capable of using the smart board technology, implemented a guided reading/ writing/and math program using the IPad, had the only functioning classroom website, and was the only certified Generalist in the building.Even after the didn’t renew my contract, they email me asking me for yearbook pictures; since I am was also the Journalism club teacher. How dare they fire me and then, over the summer shile I’m trying to find work, hit me up for yearbook pictures!!!!!

    1. I appreciate your frustration and predicament.

      Many of these charter schools have no concern about the teachers or how changing schools disorients a family, particularly the student, and can cause serious disruption for not only the family and the student but also the community.


  25. I just pulled my kids out of their charter school.
    I wish I had educated myself better regarding charter school.
    Our charter was so ill managed, and ED was arrogant and closed- minded.
    I feel for you incredible teachers.
    My experience with charter school is that they love to share all the amazing things they are going to do with our children, but fail to inform us of important education details that may waiver a person decision.
    I pray that Charter School law has more transparent guidelines required to follow.
    More kids, families, staff, and communities are being adversely affected.
    And no one seems to want to listen.

  26. I have a “bad” charter school experience, too. After almost twenty years working in public education as a teacher and curriculum specialist, I accepted a job in NC at a charter school as their assistant head. All was going okay until I realized after a year on the job that there was some shady business going on with the financials. When the chairman of the board is married to the accounts receivable lady, well… I questioned a vote by the board that increased two business office employees’ salaries by over $4,000 a piece per year, and the board members didn’t even realize how much the increase was they were voting on. This is a school with a super tight budget where every penny supposedly matters. Since the board director’s wife was one of the people getting this big raise, they retaliated by not rehiring me. I went from being the “new face of the school” that they all loved, to suddenly having “questionable leadership,” though they never offered any specifics. My head of school actually fought for me and was devastated when the board did this. They won’t even let her fill out evaluation/recommendation forms on me from prospective employees because they want me to sign a contract promising I will never say anything disparaging against any of them or pursue a lawsuit against any of them. They are as corrupt as they come. I have no career right now, because I can’t get a positive recommendation from the head of school, who is scared to death she is next, and I was let go by the board. How does that look to prospective employers? I will bounce back eventually, because I have faith that God has better plans for me. But, bottom line is these things go on in many charter schools, and the power is in a very small group’s hands, and they can do whatever they want, because there is very little accountability. And God forbid if you try to shed light on matters to improve the school and do right by the students, parents and teachers. You will be fired and shut out in the blink of an eye. If any attorney out there would be wiling to take on my case pro bono, let me know. :-). I spent $2500 on a young attorney who was able to accomplish nothing, but even he said it was obvious that the board was shady. He just didn’t know anything about public education issues or how to handle them. Many parents are trying to fight this board, too, and this issue that began at the end of May 2013 is far from over. Is there any organization out there that helps people who have legal issues or have been done wrong by a charter school? Thanks all.

    1. When will people realize that the charter school movement is basically designed
      to privatize education using public money. And make a big profit for the companies that run them. Charter schools reflect basic right wing
      ideology: no unions, overwork people and underpay them,fire people at will with no reason given, have business people with no educational experience run charter schools, etc,,etc. And only take the best students and send those that are disadvantaged and need special help to the public schools, thus making the lives of these folks worse. And everyone knows that if someone is poor it is their own fault. And of course let big profit making companies, again with no educational experience run charter schools
      on “business principles”, not educational principles. The right wing message has done a very good job of selling the public on charter schools in the last thirty years.

    2. Anyone that would thumbs down this highly accurate post is an idiot.

  27. As a public school tacher in Los Angeles, I have just learned how one charter school terminated all employees (teachers) and replaced them with all NEW teachers (first year). This charter school has been in existence for only three years, and already they are doing this. I feel just horrible for all teachers taken advantage of. It seems thet say students come first but in reality, money is all that matters.

  28. I just started at a charter school 3 weeks ago and I am already looking for another job. We got our first paycheck on Thursday and were told not to cash it because metro messed up and they in turn blamed it on the government. I think it was the ceo covering her butt.They said cash it tomorrow. Tomorrow came and they said the money was supposed to be there but it wasn’t. Deposit it and it should be ok or cash it on Saturday. A coworker tried and failed because they said they’d had bad checks from that school before.
    We’ve had supplies that were being held onto because the ceo wanted them to go out on her timetable. Finally the new principal passed them out while she was out,
    We were told we had money to spend only to be told in the same breath that there wasn’t any. But give us a wish list and we’ll see what we can do. Any school that refuses to pay their teachers should be forced to close. The staff is mostly new because hardly any teachers stayed last year. They lied to hook us and the reality is that they don’t give a crap about their teachers, just the almighty dollar. We weren’t even given a paystub and there were discrepancies. If the money isn’t there on Monday I won’t return I don’t work for free.

      1. Made it to the FRC World Robotics Championship while working 80 hours per week. Was told my classroom management wasn’t up to par and was given a lower than proficient eval. I quit and went to the neighboring school district for a 12% raise. I consider my skills more valuable than they are paying me always and will go to the highest bidder….survival of the fittest.

  29. Wow, this makes me sad! having worked at 3 different charter schools over the last 8 years in Boston and NYC, I can say honestly that I have never seen any of this. I wish this person had said the name of their school as I have to wonder if all of this could really be true. I have to wonder why a charter school in Boston is profiled this way in a Seattle publication. The colleague that the writer wanted to honor sounds like an awesome teacher, and the principal sounds really ineffective, but I feel really sad that this person thinks all charter schools operate this way. Either way, I feel compelled to defend the awesome network I work for and explain how nearly all of what this writer attributes to the charter world is not true at the schools I have worked at.

    1. I have never seen a firing season. Contracts were always given out in March or April before vacation. In 8 years at 3 charter schools I have seen 1 person not given a contract to return, and that was with due process over multiple weeks and months after significant performance issues.

    2. In the schools I worked at in both Boston and NYC the salary range of charter schools matched the local districts for educational levels and experience. The difference in pay is only accounted for by calculating the required hours in the building.

    3. The most concerning part of the article to me is the writer’s perspective on the lack of meaningful skill practice, the collection of too much data on what students can do, and the requirement of lesson planning. Aren’t all of those benchmarks of increased accountability for teachers and schools everywhere? I also found it very concerning that the writer makes connections to the extreme poverty his/her students grapple with every day and implies that teachers can’t get through a lesson because how “unpredictable” kids are and because of the level of trauma students experience at home. Shouldn’t school be somewhat predicable and orderly despite what kids go through at home? Shouldn’t the adults determine how time is spent in a classroom and not children? “These broken children” are “more difficult than ever” at the end of the year– it makes me really sad that this teacher makes these excuses for his/her students. Not to discount the emotional and physical toll that a childhood in poverty comes with, but all kids can be engaged and responsive to a culturally relevant and dynamic curriculum, and well-planned and executed lessons can provide a roadmap that helps kids change their trajectory and plan for a more successful future than they were born into.

    Granted, this is one teacher’s perspective, but I felt I had to respond with mine too. Charters are not perfect and sadly they have not lived up to their original purpose when created in the 90’s (to be a lab for best practices that could be replicated in district schools) but I could connect you to hundreds of charter teachers in Boston and NYC who believe the workload is worth it, who are happy, supported and have trust with their administrators, and like all good teachers, just want the best for the kids that they commit to every year.

    1. Amy,

      Unfortunately, not all charter schools are equal. Because charter schools are founded by anyone who wants to start one, whether they have experience in education or not, the performance of these schools has been uneven at best. Between the lack of public oversight and the hiring of inexperienced teachers at many charter schools, it has lead to disastrous results for students.

      Parents, teachers and students in our state have watched the privatization of public schools spread from New Orleans, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and other districts and creep our way. Twice people in our state have voted against having charter schools in our state. In the last general election, Alice Walton of the Walmart fortune and Bill Gates poured millions of dollars into a campaign convincing people that charter schools were the best way to educate other people’s children. The initiative passed by 1% of the vote but fortunately a lawsuit has been submitted challenging the constitutionality of charter schools in terms of the lack of public oversight which is required by our state’s constitution.

      Charter schools are not the silver bullet and it’s important for people to know that. Emphasizing the success of a few charter schools allows us to ignore the real problems that some of our children and their families face. Many children are not ready to learn due to hunger, illness, homelessness and other situations and needs that are not being met due to a lack of social support and structure.

      We hear about the few successes primarily due to the marketing effort of these enterprises but nothing about the consequences of privatizing a public service or other programs and options that have been successful.

      For more on charter schools, check out our subheading Charter Schools,


    2. This sounds like it was written by someone in charter school management.There are too many echos of right wing dogma here for this to be a genuine reply.

    3. This sounds like it was written by someone in charter school management.There are too many echos of right wing dogma here for this to be a genuine reply.

    4. Three different charter schools in eight years? Hmm, what kind of stability is that? It certainly doesn’t sound like a sustainable work life where one builds community within the school environment with students and colleagues. Red flag here from my perspective!

    5. You sound like someone hired by a charter corporation to write this. Sad. You are a liar, and I saw plenty of those “lying educators” when working for a charter school in Florida. Everything that everyone wrote here is the same as my experience. You are a liar.

  30. What a beautifully written, painful piece. I am in dispair at the disassembling of public education. I have nearly thirty years in, and don’t have an answer to misplaced priorities. Case in point: small town (four elementary schools and a couple of Christian schools – thankfully no charters until WA infests us with them next year) and an all district art show. Who attends the show, proudly hung in the city offices in a big, perfect room for such things? Hardly anyone. The Board didn’t come, nor did the central office curriculum people. The principals didn’t come. A few of the parents came (2%) and four (total) teachers from the general ed classrooms. Why? I’m not sure. Not enough bouncing balls? No admission charge? Art doesn’t matter? I refuse to accept this one – where else can kids really express themselves?

    I fear we’ve done all of this to ourselves. At least I’ve never intentionally voted for a big-business-profit-at-all-costs school advocate.


  31. This story touched me deeply. Dany came to my charter school after being fired, where he was loved and deeply appreciated by our staff and students. We were very sad when he died, knowing that we had only just begun to know the dynamic, charismatic person he was. He, as you said, worked hard to teach kids so many things that aren’t actually in the standard curriculum… they loved him even though they knew him for such a short time. I still love where I work and (maybe selfishly) feel like we don’t fit into the corporate charter school model, but agree that so many charter schools are not built to support “whole people” in regards to staff or student treatment. Good luck with whereever your next step takes you, and thanks for sharing your love and support for Dany, and your dissatisfaction with the way some charters are run.

  32. Unfortunately, the experiences of a charter school teacher is the direction all the anti-union people want all schools to go. In Arizona, public schools are exactly the same. The protections were taken away from us because we dared to protest the budget cuts. A stated position of the people in charge of the public educational system is to remove all public schools and replace them with private or charter schools. The time of teachers being public servants, with the respect and the pay due a public servant are long past in the United States. As in this article the teachers are leaving in droves, to the point where schools go an entire year with untrained substitutes because there are no math or science teachers. The unfortunate thing is that it will take 7 to 10 years before the parents, the corporations (other than the for profit education companies) to realize that the product being turned out is worse than anything the public schools ever did. We in the public schools are left with the bottom 70% of the students, yet the results of our educational process are equal or better than the charter schools who only have the top 30%, and can get rid of any student they don’t want. I agree with the last sentence. ‘There are problems with the education system, but charter schools are not the solution.’

  33. I taught at charter schools for a few years. In my experience many charter schools are owned by large corporations and/or managed my administrators with no background in the field of education. These companies care more about profit than the quality of education the students receive in these schools. The first charter school I worked at hired a person to be a Lead Teacher with no Bachelor’s Degree, credentials or experience. They fired her for poor job performance later in the school year. They had Teaching Assistants as Substitute Teachers. They fired me along with half of the teaching staff at the end of the year without ever doing a formal evaluation of our performance. However my students performed well on the standardized tests scoring better than the other grade level classes. The second charter school I worked at fired all of us experienced teachers within two years and replaced us with interns. They would shuffle the teachers around to different grade levels each year. The final charter school I worked at fired me along with others at the end of the year. My supervisor was not allowed to write an evaluation of my performance, but believes they only intended to use us a temps without informing us, when they hired us. My supervisor, a Lead Teacher wrote me a letter of recommendation. If I was a parent I would not send my child to a charter school. There are problems with the education system, but charter schools are not the solution.

  34. I’ve taught at charter schools. I was fired without ever seeing an evaluation of my performance along with 1/2 of the teaching staff on the last day of school in June. Apparently this is common from what I heard from staff. However my students performed well on standardized tests that year. The administrator was a bully who was very critical and intimidating. The next charter school I worked at the Director who had no education background and fired all of his experienced teachers with in 2 years to replace us with younger teachers who were interns thus cheaper. The 3rd charter school (a virtual school) I worked at hired some of us as temps without telling us this, leading us to believe we would be rehired after working overtime for several months. They did not let us know we were fired until the last week of school. It took me a lot of time and effort learning technology and how to do paperwork involved with teaching special education students for the first time. My lead teacher wrote me a letter of recommendation but did not get to write an evaluation of my performance for the job. Due to all the budget cuts its very difficult to find a permanent teaching job.We need a better way to improve the education system than having charter schools. Charter schools are managed by administrators without out a background in the field of education sometimes. In addition, charter schools can be bought by a large cooperation that cares more about profit than the education of it’s students.

  35. This post brought tears to my eyes and a further resolve to tell stories like yours. Please check out our website and trailer at If you like what we have to say, please contact me at I’d so much to speak with you.

  36. thank you for the article–re-enforced what I have seen. I am a teacher–have not taught very much, but my parents were teachers and I’ve seen a lot. I don’t think I could teach in the present environment because when I see things that are not right, correct, fair, or logical I get very vocal and call people out–so I wouldn’t last long anyway–I try to teach the kids I go come in contact with–logic, and reasonable thought, and that fact that going overboard about anything does not help at all for the injustices you are seeing and living–work as best you can to live with it and make as many changes for the better that you can within the constraints you are forced into–I feel sorry for all the children who are missing out on a good education and the mentoring of concerned teachers and support people that used to be in the schools

  37. Thank you for that eye opening article. I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your colleague, Dany. Here in NC our power and money hungry general assembly is trying to bring MORE of this type of school here and to really tear down and hurt the public school system. I shared this article so that may be my parents, their friends, and others will finally stand up and say NO THANK YOU!

    Keep writing! It was awesome!

  38. The problem with any public education institution is that no one with power and money wants to invest in it. Most rich and powerful people send their children to private school. Public school is for “those kids”, and politicians who claim they want to support education are lying. They already spend thousands of dollars on the education of the children they feel matter: via private school tuition. I am sure teachers in private school have their stories of bullying by Tiger Moms and the like, not to mention rampant cheating, drug use, and entitlement. It’s hard to believe we have any reason to get into this business sometimes.

    1. I think that the problem lies in our own culture in the US and what we value as a people. We have chosen to spend more money for sports venues than schools. In California, it used to be that bond initiatives for schools always passed, now they rarely do. We pay athletes more than teachers. In fact, just about every other profession has better pay than teachers. That reflects what’s important to us and what isn’t.

      Look how different teachers are treated in Finland. They are respected and treated as professionals, not widgets. That is a reflection of what is valued by the populace.

      It’s not the responsibility of the wealthy to support public schools, it’s up to the electorate in general.


  39. Thank you for sharing. I am saddened that you had to endure this as did/ do your colleagues. I mourn your l

    1. Loss and that of the kids. It is always the children who lose in these cases and the dedicated people who work and know them. Again thanks.

  40. I can say the working environment in public schools isn’t any better and is in fact arguably worse.

    Teaching has been ruined in this country, and it doesn’t matter what part of the country or whether the schools are regular private schools, charter schools which are private schools, or public schools.

    BTW, there is NO such thing as a “public” charter school. They are private schools that get public money.

    Lots of private entities get public dollars, and they are not called “public.”

    I wish people would quit peddling the nonsense that there is any such thing as a “public” charter school.

    1. Education has become a second class citizen in this country. The only attention paid to it is to privatize it and make money off of our public dollars.

      These same people are trying to break the teachers’ union so that it becomes easier to hire less expensive employees who might not be truly qualified to teach and because of the political clout that the teachers’ union and other unions have…or had.

      To get our schools back on track, we need public support of our schools and education in general.

      …and our teachers, within that context, need to be valued for what they do, preparing our children for life.


    2. Sorry, but you are wrong. There ARE public charter schools. They have to answer to almost all of the state and federal education mandates (unlike private schools), they get SOME state and federal funding, but not as much as regular public schools, and they have their own governance (school board). They still have to submit reports, data, etc., to the state. At least, in NC they do. Also, you can’t just kick a kid out once he or she is enrolled, like you could in a private school. You can’t pick and choose students, either, but have to hold a blind lottery. Again, that’s in NC. Special Education services must be provided as well.

      1. Charter schools are not transparent and have no oversight by an elected school board.

        A charter school is privately owned and run.

        It has a board that is appointed by the owners.

        The only thing “public” about a charter school its use of public money and public school property.


  41. This is terrible. It is also YOUR story, not every story. I live in a town (I’m a teacher) where the unionized, “public” (our charters are public too) teachers feel more like this than the Charter school teachers. The Charter teachers feel like they have buy-in, work collaboratively with their administration, are allowed to be creative, are more respected. The district teachers feel bullied, disrespected, micromanaged and are shuffled around at will if they don’t tow the line, until they too quit before they have to be further traumatized. I am tired of the generalizations and rhetoric being spewed about charter v. non. Just like people, there are bad and good of every stripe and color. Can we please work together for solutions? The more we divide and malign, the more the “powers that be” ruin education for our children. I am a dues paying union member at a four-year university. My sister and father are both elementary teachers, along with many of my friends.

    1. Actually, the public has heard very little about the reality of charter schools.For all of the hype, the majority of charter schools don’t do any better than public schools and yet drain the district of valuable resources and break communities apart. It sounds like you might have a Broad supe as we did in Seattle.

    2. When does “your story” become “every story”? This article was great! I too experienced a similar situation, but it’s not about every story; It’s about patterns that make us reflect on the direction of education. I urge you to read about Chile’s education crisis (same neo-liberal polices that are being passed in the U.S.).

      If you want to read about my (another) charter school experience, I blogged about it here:

  42. As a public school teacher, I appreciate reading your story. Awareness is so needed since many people (other than educators) don’t truly realize what is happening in the world of eduation.

  43. Please continue to tell your story. We need teachers like you, we really do! As a veteran teacher in a public school, I hate to see good people like yourself get taken advantage of. It seems like you were set up to fail in such a system. I’m so sorry you were not supported and I hope you find a place to teach that is a better fit.

  44. Wow! Very powerful writing! While conditions at the charter school where I work aren’t as bad as the one you’re writing about, the ELEMENTS of it are there… just a bit more subtle. The climate of fear is very much alive and well… which is also why I’m leaving. They want me to stay… but I’ve learned too much about how the system of it works, and I cannot abide by it. Like you, I don’t know where I’m going to be… but the oppressiveness of it is unacceptable.

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