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Op-Ed: Blaming teachers union is wrong tactic

April 21, 2012|By Mandy Redfern

There has been much attention directed at teacher tenure in La Cañada in recent weeks. Is teacher tenure the problem? A school board member asked this question publicly and responded by saying, “Yes.”

My first response to this is to say that teachers and certificated staff members in California do not have tenure. Tenure is a right only given in particular professions such as university professors. Elementary teachers, secondary teachers and other certificated staff members are granted “permanent status” after completing two years of probationary status. Probationary status is often preceded by three years of temporary status, during which all contracts are for one year.

Temporary teachers must reapply, reinterview and be observed a minimum of three times in order to be rehired. The following probationary period is a time when teachers can be non-reelected, or let go without the district's administration needing to give a specific reason. Due process is given to certificated staff members once they are granted permanent status.

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Due process does not mean that a district cannot fire a teacher if it has just cause. While the process could be streamlined and administrators could be better trained in effectively carrying out procedures, it is not as ominous a task as the media would make it appear. If a certificated staff member is not effectively doing their job, an administrator must document the ineffectiveness, attempt to provide support to help the employee improve, and if no improvement occurs, they can terminate the employment of the staff member.

This is a process that takes time. It is the district's responsibility to ensure that a permanent-status employee, who has dedicated his or her life to the profession, is working to the district's standards. Removing an ineffective teacher does not have to be costly if adequate documentation and evidence is provided to support the decision.

Why is due process so important? Any person should have the right to know when they are not meeting standards and then be afforded the opportunity to improve. There are few careers where an employee would not be warned of the need to improve before being discarded. Teachers deserve this same right.

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