Over 140 teachers told not to return
This he said/she said doesn't reveal much of the real story, but it is nonetheless very disturbing.
By Christina Denardo
More than 140 teachers have been told by their principals they are not welcome back next year, including 90 who teach critical needs subjects and one who received a Dwyer award for excellence in teaching.
The teachers work at seven poor and low-performing schools across the district that have not met federal education standards, making them targets for restructuring.
What they are saying
Superintendent Art Johnson: 'This is not about the adults. This is about the students and unfortunately there are people out there who are not cut out to be teachers and others who work for the contract.'
School board member Paulette Burdick: 'If a professional has lost their enthusiasm, their belief that all students will learn and can learn, then as a school district we need to counsel with them to see if there is another appropriate position with the district or counsel them in finding another career.'
Teachers union executive director Helene Samango: 'They don't even know if they can go forward and apply for other jobs.'
The schools are Glades Central High, Boynton Beach High, Pahokee Middle/Senior High, J.F.K. Middle School, West Riviera Elementary, Lincoln Elementary and Pleasant City Elementary.
Union officials say it's the most teachers pushed out of schools in as long as they can remember. They claim principals did not voice any concerns before kicking teachers out and criticize the district for not following the union contract.
"They have had good evaluations previously and all but one had very positive observations," said Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association President Theo Harris. "Principals didn't identify anything wrong with their teaching process."
Usually one or two veteran teachers each year have been dismissed, but this year schools have asked 40 to leave. At least 100 teachers in their first three years in the profession have been told their contracts won't be renewed. The teachers were informed earlier this year.
After five years of failing federal standards and unappealing choices for next school year - including state takeover, converting to a charter school or transfer to a private management company - Superintendent Art Johnson chose the only option that retained district control: overhauling the schools' administration and some of the staff.
"This is not about the adults," Johnson said. "This is about the students and unfortunately there are people out there who are not cut out to be teachers and others who work for the contract."
Johnson said the moves have affected only a small percentage of the district's teaching staff - 0.2 percent - and that transforming staffs at struggling schools has proved successful. A few years ago, teachers at F-rated Forest Hill and Pahokee Middle/Senior High as well as D-rated Belle Glade Elementary had to reapply for their jobs. Since then Belle Glade Elementary's grade has risen to a B, and the high schools have earned C's.
School board member Paulette Burdick said she is concerned by the union's claims and plans to talk with Johnson and human resources to ensure the district followed the union contract. But she acknowledged that No Child Left Behind gives districts more leeway to dismiss teachers.
"If a professional has lost their enthusiasm, their belief that all students will learn and can learn, then as a school district we need to counsel with them to see if there is another appropriate position with the district or counsel them in finding another career," she said.
But union officials said the district is working to restructure schools even before student performance data is released. FCAT scores are not due until later this month.
Many of the dismissed teachers have not received a formal evaluation from their principal, a requirement under the union contract. Without an evaluation, teachers will face a hard time obtaining teaching jobs elsewhere.
"They don't even know if they can go forward and apply for other jobs" either within the district or in other districts, said Helene Samango, the union's executive director.
Johnson said the beginning teachers dismissed likely won't be hired by any other schools in the district. He said the district has an obligation to find jobs for the others.
The manner in which teachers were given the news was disrespectful, union officials said. They heard stories of teachers pulled out of class and told they could not come back, then put back in to finish lessons.
Glades Central High was hit hardest by the moves, union officials said. At least 25 teachers were told not to return. Principal Ed Harris, who determined which teachers to dismiss, was transferred in mid-March to L.C. Swain Middle School after failing to raise the high school's test scores.
"He was taken out of the school, yet you are asking him to give a recommendation of who should be there next year," Theo Harris, the union president, said.
Johnson defended the former principal's actions and said if a new principal was forced to make those decisions it could hurt morale.
If teaches failed in their jobs, principals should hold some of the responsibility, union officials said. In some cases, principals did not offer new teachers support, such as a mentor, union officials said.
School Board Chairman Bill Graham said he's concerned if principals are moving out good teachers, but he added that the school district must make extreme moves for schools that consistently perform poorly.
He added that teachers at these schools should have been aware that under No Child Left Behind they could lose their jobs if student test scores did not improve.
"Nobody should be shocked," he said.
Palm Beach Post
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