Thanks to all the Get Schooled readers who talked to our news folks about non-renewals. The AJC story is in the paper and online today. The story raises questions about the increase in non-renewals.
It seems to me that systems are using non-renewals purportedly based on performance to reduce staffing. Read the entire story as it has some great comments from affected teachers. Has anybody fought a non-renewal and won?
A reader already sent me this concern:
Just read about this terrible dilemma of the “resign or termination” choice in the AJC this morning. The author didn’t mention if this affects health insurance. I think it may:
“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 contains a provision that gives qualified COBRA participants a 65 percent federal subsidy to pay their COBRA premiums for up to 15 months. You can take advantage of this assistance if you became eligible for COBRA from Sept. 1, 2008, to Feb. 28, 2010. This applies to workers (and their spouses and dependents) who were involuntarily terminated (including those laid off) or had a reduction in work hours that led to loss of health insurance benefits.“
Among the points in the AJC piece:
About 1,500 metro Atlanta teachers are expected to get the bad news that their contracts have not been renewed.
Cobb County plans to cut 579 teaching positions to cope with a $137 million deficit. The district plans to tell teachers by May 15 whether their teaching contracts will be renewed for fall. Fulton expects to cut 200 to 250 teachers in the next week. Clayton has told 312 teachers their contracts would not be renewed, Gwinnett 150, DeKalb 105 and Atlanta 33.
New and veteran teachers alike are worried. Teachers with under four years’ experience don’t have the right to a hearing on the reasons for their non-renewal, said Tim Callahan, a spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.
Most districts also give teachers the chance to resign instead of accepting a non-renewal of their contract, which carries some stigma. A resignation, however, means the teacher cannot collect unemployment, Callahan said. Jay Dillon, spokesman for Cobb County schools, said it’s up to the Department of Labor to decide questions of unemployment.
In the world of education, non-renewal of a teaching contract is like a scarlet letter pinned on a teacher. It’s usually a signal that something is seriously wrong and many districts won’t interview them. Gwinnett County’s teacher application ask applicants if they have ever been non-renewed or if they have resigned in lieu of non-renewal, the district’s spokeswoman said.
Cynthia Wentz, 44, was teaching middle school English in Gwinnett County two months ago when she was called to the principal’s office and told her contract would not be renewed. She was approaching the end of her third year with Gwinnett.
“I was just stunned,” Wentz said. The principal would not give a reason and told Wentz she had about an hour to decide whether she was going to resign or accept the non-renewal, Wentz said.
“Now when a teacher accepts a non-renewal, it’s like saying you accept that you’ve done something totally awful,” Wentz said. “Putting non-renew on a job application – it marks you as a bad teacher. It’s sort of assumed to be performance or attitude or interaction with kids. It’s completely negative.”
Wentz attended a career fair in Walton County in March where signs on the front windows said they would not interview “non-renewals.”
“I had always wanted to be a teacher,” Wentz said. “I’m a single mom and I went back to school and finished college and got a master’s degree in teaching so I could have the career I always wanted,” she said.
She tried to explain her situation: Her evaluations were good and the non-renewal was more of a budget decision on the school’s part.
“I should have heard from them by now,” Wentz said of Walton County schools. “I did not get a call back.” In addition to bearing the mark of non-renewal, Wentz faced competition from 500 other teachers at the fair, she said. “That was mind-blowing and disheartening,” she said.
Veteran teachers are worried as well, with some receiving poor evaluations for their first time in their careers, said Susan Dietz, co-chair of the Gwinnett County Association of Educators.
The number of those recommended for non-renewal nearly tripled in Gwinnett County from 55 last year to 150 this year. Non-renewals also rose in Clayton and DeKalb counties because of tighter budgets, district officials said. In Fulton County traditional performance-based non-renewals will be about 20 this year, spokeswoman Allison Toller said. But budget-related cuts will result in 200 to 250 teachers receiving non-renewals this year.
“We’ve never seen this before,” Toller said.