This era may be remembered as the time when our nation’s leaders decided to break the spirits of our teachers and to close enough schools to instill fear in the hearts of all educators

I don’t know which “thought leader” came up with the idea that the best way to “fix” a school with low test scores is to fire the principal and at least half the staff. I don’t know the evidence to support this policy of wiping the slate clean without individual evaluations.

But now with the federal imprimatur of Race to the Top, it’s happening in many school districts. And of course, the U.S. Department of Education will stretch to prove that lowering the boom works, because it’s their idea. But how do you persuade the public and especially communities of color where the axe will fall most often that this punitive strategy is a good idea?

Imaginary scene: Some bright PR guy or gal figured out how important language is in selling a really destructive idea. “How can we explain to people that we are firing most of the teachers and renaming the neighborhood school? The one that everyone knew and loved for fifty years? How do we make this unpleasant reality palatable?” Ponder, ponder.

“Ah, I’ve got it! When we shut down their school and fire everyone, let’s call it a “turnaround!” That sounds like a dance around the Maypole. It sounds so festive. It’s positive and happy.

“Crazy idea. No one will believe that. No one is that stupid.”

“Think so? Let’s try it and see how it goes.”

With that context, here is how it went for this teacher in New York City.  This comment and the events it describes occurred before the arbitrator postponed the school turnarounds last Friday. Some teachers had already found other jobs. Those who choose to remain have a one-year lease on life, unless a court throws out the arbitrator’s decision. The bottom line: chaos, uncertainty, disruption. This is no way to run a school or a school system.