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From ‘Teacher Of The Year’ To Teacher Without A Job

All across Massachusetts this week, students and teachers are returning to the classroom for the start of a brand new school year.

One of those teachers is 28-year-old Adam Gray. On June 16, Gray — then a math teacher at South Boston’s Monument High School — was named the 2012 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. Two weeks later, he was out of work.

In June, Adam Gray was named Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. Then, he lost his job. (Courtesy: Boston Public Schools)

In June, Adam Gray was named Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. (Courtesy Boston Public Schools)

Gray lost his job as a result of the Boston School Committee’s decision in December to merge or close more than a dozen schools in the city, including Monument, in order to help narrow a $63 million budget gap.

For Gray, the merger plan meant that even though he had taught at Monument for five years, there would not be enough room for him this year when the staff of Monument was combined with the faculty at nearby Excel High School.

Ultimately, “seniority was the reason why I was not retained,” Gray said. “It is frustrating.”

Gray’s case is one that points to the hazards of school reform. Given the budget shortfall that Boston was facing last year, the decision to close some schools and merge others was one that had to be made, Gray said. But, he added, that doesn’t always mean that what makes the most sense in fiscal terms is what is necessarily in the best interest of students.

“When students develop these strong bonds with these teachers, and then teachers are displaced — yes, I was required to find a new place of employment,” Gray said. “But who got the bad deal on that one? It was the students.”

That’s not to say there is a simple answer to solving the issue of how best to reform Boston’s schools, according to Gray.

One solution, he said, is for educators to be asking themselves, “What can we do better to be more effective, so that all students have access to effective teachers, and all teachers have access to effective leaders?”

Less than three months after losing his job, Gray is now preparing to launch a new phase in his career with a position at Boston Latin School. He said that despite all that has happened to him, he is just as passionate today about teaching as he was when he first entered the classroom.

Gray said he is looking forward to meeting his new students, and to trading new ideas with a whole new set of colleagues. After all, while he may be teacher of the year, Gray said he still has lots to learn.

Guest:

  • Adam Gray, teacher, Boston Latin School

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  • Andy

    My wife has been teaching for over a decade, puts in a lot of hours and does not work to rule.  She displaced a teacher with less seniority who was also a very good teacher (and whose principal did not want to let the junior teacher go) when budget cuts occurred.  Although I have sympathy for Adam Gray, such possibilities go with the job.

    I am not a teacher, but I have been let go from jobs where I performed well right until I was showed the door.

    Bottom line – everyone needs to do the best they can, regardless.  No one said life is fair.

    • E B

      It isn’t necessary for life to be fair.  It *is* necessary to give kids the best possible chance at an excellent education, and I would imagine it is hard to argue that the students at Mr. Gray’s former school have lost a bit of that chance by having the “Teacher of the Year” removed.  Policies that allow this sort of absolute removal should be replaced by something a little more intelligent.

      • jonshore

        I hate to break your bubble, there is a lot of politics involved in being awarded  “Teacher of the Year.” There were many fine teachers who were forced to leave their closed schools, and in the case of 5 year Adam Gray landed in a MUCH better school!  (which I am still trying to figure out!)  If he is still unfulfilled as a teacher, the Turnaround/Spinning English High School awaits!  

  • Elizabeth in RI

    I completely understand his frustration. But in this era when experience (older folks) seems to be an excuse for not hiring and sometimes firing (so that less expensive individuals can be hired) it seems that seniority ought to count for something. Otherwise Mr Gray might discover in 5 or 10 years that there are younger folks pushing him out – no matter how good he is.  As a nation we need to start appreciating teachers a bit more and stop vilifying them so much!

  • Bpfoeva88

    We’re so excited to have him!

  • Lindy

    I also understand Mr. Gray’s frustration but it was a more senior teacher who displaced him, but a political environment that values tax breaks for the rich over adequate funding for excellent schools. 

    • annie

      I see you have memorized your left wing talking
      points!

      • Lindy

        Annie, Your response was uncivil and non-substantive.  If you have a point other than an ad feminen attack, please try again. 

  • E B

    The sole reason this man was let go was seniority, so even though there may have been a substantial number of teachers who were bad teachers, lazy, uncaring, etc. in his former school, he was still the one to go.  That is unfair not just to the teacher, but also to the students, who deserve the best possible education possible.  The best education possible comes from people who are good teachers, who are engaging, who care about their students, etc.  I only hope that by the time I have children who are ready to go to school, we collectively have more sense than something as antiquated as retention based solely on seniority.

    • jonshore

      I don’t think you understand, Adam’s  school closed.  He didn’t lose his job.   There was a teacher in the other school who was equally loved and respected by his community. That teachers school was not closed.

      It is kind of cheeky for Adam Gray to think he should be allowed to take the other  teachers position because HE wanted to stay in the building! What most of us question is how a teacher with only 5 years of experience ended up at Boston Latin!    If it is really about “seniority” I’m sure there was a line of math teachers from all those closed schools dying for a chance to teach at Boston Latin!  Yet 5 year Adam Gray got the job!  Hum!  If he really wants a chance to “make a difference” he can bid out of Boston Latin and  come to turnaround/spinning English High School!

  • niel

    This is absurd……the system is so F*cked up. This man is shaping our future and he gets let go, this kind of stuff honestly disgusts me and shows that things need to change!!!

  • nick

    This article highlights the problems and issues in managing and funding in our schools today.  My partner passionately taught for 3 years, volunteered on committees, pushed his students to learn material beyond that required by MCAS.  He did this without issues, problems, subject to only praise through official channels, only to be let go without reason late this June.  Teaching is the only job I know of which allows employers potentially a 36 month grace period during which the employee can be let go without official reason given.  Mr Gray is one of so many who gave their best and fortunately he has a job today.  We need to do better by our underfunded, overworked public employees.

  • Justin Marable

    How could they let this Grizz-ly veteran go?

  • Karmcc

    Last in first out (LIFO) is extremely problematic–I don’t support any arbitrary reason to fire anyone. This policy needs reform, as it is clearly not ideal for kids or teachers, but it is essential that more expensive (senior/veteran) teachers are protected in an arena that is so cash-strapped it often must put budget before quality. This is why the seniority policy exists. Mr. Gray is not complaining, in fact he presents himself as remarkably intelligent, balanced, and not bitter. His positive outlook is no doubt a strength in his classroom. This is why he was chosen as Teacher of the Year.

  • Ms. Sanchez

    As one of his former students I must say he is a great teacher, he pushed me and pushed me to move forward. He has such a great way of teaching and such a connection with the class. He was one of the few teachers at Monument who managed to make the students learn and progress in such an effective way. Mr. Gray taught in a way that people enjoyed his class and learned at the same time. It was sad to see he go, even though I wasn’t going to have him in Junior year anyways, I would have loved it if he could have stayed to see how much I have progressed and to help the other students who would benefit so much from a great teacher. 

  • S_smith87

    gg

  • S_smith87

    Mr. Gray was not let go.  He had tenure in the system and was guaranteed a job in the district.  The district also decided to keep all Excel teachers above seniority of teachers in Monument.  Monument was the school that closed due to low performance.  Isn’t this what Mr. Gray is advocating?  Also, he recently wrote an article that he doesn’t feel he is making as much of an impact at Boston Latin School.  Couldn’t he have applied to transfer (again, he was guaranteed a position) at a lower performing BPS school?

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