Thursday, July 24, 2014

Permanent Employee?

Permanent Employee?

I happened upon a teacher blog post about tenure in CA and it got me thinking again. The blog post was from a social studies teacher in NYC, NYC Urban Ed Blog, and his point was focused on #10 below, but I think the full list here is worth a good read through.

Considering the going belief is that teachers who have “permanent” status, like I do, have a guaranteed job for life and they cannot be fired. This belief is contrary to fact. As the California Ed Code below is pretty clear there is quite a variety of ways for a teacher to be dismissed. The reason for the belief that teachers cannot be fired is because administrators have to follow a process in order to demonstrate that a teacher should be removed, and this means they have to stand their ground, have their ducks in a row, and it must be valid. 

Tenure protects teachers like me who disagree with their administrators about decisions, who question decisions that are not made in the best interest of the students, or are frustrated by administrators who speak much and act little. However, if an administrator is honest from the beginning, gives real evaluations every time that are truly based on teaching and not politics, then the process works. It is when they have given positive evaluations that were undeserved in order to be nice, or to avoid conflict that those subsequent negative evaluations are questioned.

Unsatisfactory performance IS a cause for dismissal. (Read that twice, it is #4 below, it is really there.)

But in addition to unsatisfactory performance of job duties, there are ten other causes for dismissal where a total of five have to do with behavior or performance at school or in their work. That leaves eleven items we as tenured teachers can be dismissed that are not even related to how we do our jobs, it is how we live outside of the classroom.

Please be aware, that in most jobs (even those without permanent status) when an employee is not on the clock or representing their employer, their behavior is their own. Their behavior may be embarrassing or frustrating, but off the clock behavior is not regulated by employers. This is not so true for teachers.

We have all seen on facebook or other networks, the lists of requirements for school teachers in the early American years of the one-room schoolhouse. Teachers must not “keep the company of men,” or their dresses must not rise more “than 2 inches above the ankle,” are examples of the such lists. While the details have changed, expectations for teachers’ behavior are still very high, inside and outside of the classroom and school.

Schools are exceptional workplaces though, places where we send our children and expect a lot. I certainly do from the school I send my children to.

So, while everyone has heard some horror story about a teacher who ‘couldn’t be fired’ because they had tenure… remember, there are stories from every workplace. The idea that the ‘tenure’ is the reason they could not be fired is just not true. There is more to the story. I am not saying there are no bad teachers, there are bad employees in every profession. What I am saying is that there is always more to the story when a bad teacher is still in a classroom. Appropriate actions can and should be taken.

I promise you, no one wants a bad teacher in a classroom, especially the good teacher teaching next door.

Here is the actual text from the California EdCode.

44932.  (a) No permanent employee shall be dismissed except for one
or more of the following causes:
  (1) Immoral or unprofessional conduct.
  (2) Commission, aiding, or advocating the commission of acts of
criminal syndicalism, as prohibited by Chapter 188 of the Statutes of
1919, or in any amendment thereof.
  (3) Dishonesty.
  (4)  Unsatisfactory performance.
  (5) Evident unfitness for service.
  (6) Physical or mental condition unfitting him or her to instruct
or associate with children.
  (7) Persistent violation of or refusal to obey the school laws of
the state or reasonable regulations prescribed for the government of
the public schools by the State Board of Education or by the
governing board of the school district employing him or her.
  (8) Conviction of a felony or of any crime involving moral
  (9) Violation of Section 51530 or conduct specified in Section
1028 of the Government Code, added by Chapter 1418 of the Statutes of
  (10) Knowing membership by the employee in the Communist Party.
  (11) Alcoholism or other drug abuse which makes the employee unfit
to instruct or associate with children.
  (b) The governing board of a school district may suspend without
pay for a specific period of time on grounds of unprofessional
conduct a permanent certificated employee or, in a school district
with an average daily attendance of less than 250 pupils, a
probationary employee, pursuant to the procedures specified in
Sections 44933, 44934, 44935, 44936, 44937, 44943, and 44944. This
authorization shall not apply to any school district which has
adopted a collective bargaining agreement pursuant to subdivision (b)
of Section 3543.2 of the Government Code.

44933.  A permanent employee may be dismissed or suspended on
grounds of unprofessional conduct consisting of acts or omissions
other than those specified in Section 44932, but any such charge
shall specify instances of behavior deemed to constitute
unprofessional conduct. This section shall also apply to the
suspension of probationary employees in a school district with an
average daily attendance of less than 250 pupils.