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Seattle Schools okay contract with Teach for America

SeaSchBdmembers 2010.jpg
Gary Davis/KPLU.
Seattle School board members (left to right) Michael DeBell, Steve Sundquist and Peter Maier, pictured here earlier this year. The board voted 6-1 last night to approve a contract with

Teach for America is coming to Seattle Schools.  The school board voted overwhelmingly Wednesday evening to approve a contract for 20 to 25  positions starting next year. Teach for America places top college graduates in underperforming schools.

Opposition came from teacher's union leaders with the Seattle Education Assocation (SEA) and many current district educators. They say the contract will take away jobs from more highly qualified teachers, many of whom are looking for work. 

SEA president Olga Addae has called the TFA interest in expanding to Seattle an "intrusion." told KPLU News four recent open positions at an elementary school drew 800 applicants:

"We have a lot of highly qualified educators - and that would include national board certified teachers - who are in the applicant pool. So, it's not needed," said Addae.

The Seattle Foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are supportive of TFA's expansion here, and so is Seattle Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson. 

The lone vote against the contract plan came from board member Betty Patu of south Seattle, the region that would get the majority of the TFA positions. The Seattle Times reports Patu was concerned about the message being sent:

"telling teachers they are not good enough to teach our children," Patu said.

 The program wants to place at least  50 teachers in the Puget Sound region next year, with roughly half of them in Seattle. The program places teachers in district with education disparities, encouraging young adults to consider a teaching career.

TFA's Janis Ortega told KPLU the organization is able to work with communities and classrooms:

"We're breaking cycles of poverty through education," Ortega said.

Federal Way schools have also signed on with Teach for America, and talks are currently underway with Tacoma Public Schools.

To watch last night's Seattle School Board meeting, you can find links to Seattle Channel video archive here.