This morning several thousand Detroit teachers are waking up wondering if they are employed or not. Today is the day all DPS teachers are to report to their schools. However, the district is downsizing after turning 15 schools over to the new state EAA district. This means a serious reduction in DPS staff.
Late spring, teachers were given the opportunity to interview with their current principal and the principal from one other school to secure a position for this fall. That’s it, you get two tries. That is, if you were lucky enough for HR to actually schedule you an interview outside your school. I know many teachers for whom this never happened. That means if your principal didn’t want you, either because you were minimally effective or she wanted to bring in someone from the outside for your position, it’s your tough luck. Also, interviews were scheduled during a one month period of time. Teachers were notified of interviews through their board email with typically less than 24 hours notice. So if you are a teacher like me, who checks email before the morning bell and then again after school because you devote instructional time to instruction rather than email, again tough luck. You may not have seen the notice until after your scheduled time. Or perhaps you had an after school commitment that day, there was no opportunity to reschedule.
Principals were told this was their opportunity to clean house and get the people they wanted on their staff. Seniority is not a problem due to Michigan Teacher Tenure Reform which removed seniority from the equation. On paper this sounds like a great thing. Clean house – get rid of those ineffective teachers and keep only the best! Unfortunately, this is not how it seems to be working out. Many highly effective teachers are being looked over because their job categories were reduced or eliminated. Or perhaps, the principal that interviewed them was content with their current staff.
Here are just a few of the cases I know personally. The names have been changed to protect their identities as much as possible.
- Teacher “A” is a National Board teacher certified in Adolescent Science. Last year she secured a position at a high school for technology with a principal who was very excited to have her on the staff. At the last minute the district pulled her from that school and placed her in another teaching English Language Arts. As you might expect from a teacher placed outside their area of expertise, her evaluation was not stellar. However, during the interview process, the original principal was able to select her as a science teacher for her high school. Yay!, right? No, because of the evaluation, she was told (verbally through the grapevine) that she is terminated.
- Teacher “B” is an excellent Reading Recovery teacher. A former first grade teacher and early interventionist, the district has invested thousands of dollars in her training. In a district where a great majority of our students come to school unprepared for the rigors of reading instruction, you would think an early childhood educator who has intensive training in early intervention would be golden. However, most principals do not have the Title I funds in their budgets to keep Reading Recovery in their schools. So instead of placing this valuable teacher in a high needs first grade classroom somewhere in the district, her lay-off appears to be taking effect this morning.
- Teacher “C” is a previous year Michigan Teacher of the Year, National Board Certified Teacher and National Board Candidate Support Provider. She has worked extensively to develop School Improvement Plans and has written for many School Improvement Grants. For the past several years, she has been an Instructional Specialist in the district. Although she has repeatedly been assured by her principal that she was indeed selected, the money was budgeted, and her performance is stellar, she has not received a recall notice and in fact has been locked out of her board email over the weekend. This teacher has devoted nearly her entire summer to re-writing the School Improvement Plan (pro bono) to meet the ever-changing demands of the district and state, and now faces unemployment.
These are not isolated cases. This is being repeated throughout the district in great numbers.
So, how are employees finding out if they’re laid off, terminated or rehired? This is the greatest injustice of all. If you did not receive a call back letter last week, you don’t know. So far there is no apparent method for notifying teachers of their status if they did not receive a recall letter. This is a facebook message circulated this past weekend providing some (unofficial) guidance.
"For those Detroit Public School folks still waiting for a word, please go to Peoplesoft & check your employee status under payroll & compensation. Depending upon what that says, it may give you a clue if you have been rehired or terminated, Not a good way to find out information, but it's better than waiting day in and day out for an answer."
Find out for yourself. Yep. Self-serve at it’s best. And it may have worked except those without recall letters, and even some who have them, were locked out of their board email yesterday. Seriously.