Budget Cuts Threaten Jobs of Untenured Teachers

Budget Cuts Threaten Jobs of Untenured Teachers

Emily Kowal ’12 and Annie Nelson ’11
News Editor and Managing Editor

Pink Slip: Untenured teachers received a message in February that threatened their jobs. | Photo by Brendan Rand '11
It is 2:15 p.m., and the school day is over. Hallways and stairwells are flooded with students, many of whom rush home. But some of these students are merely racing to the offices of their teachers to sign their names on schedules posted on door windows or wait in lines for a conference, all in the name of extra help.

 

Even the teachers who are new to the school system are accepting of this procedure, in which they offer their time before and after school, as well as during their free periods. And though newer teachers often show their ability to adjust to Staples by adopting the conferencing mindset, this does not always mean they are ensured job security.

Due to recent budget cuts, all teachers without tenure are at risk of not being rehired in the fall. Principal John Dodig has vocalized his resentment for the recent budget cuts, emphasizing that all teachers, tenured or not, are integral to maintaining the unique system of Staples.

“People should be throwing money at it,” he said, of the town budget for education. The Board of Education’s (BOE) proposed budget for the 2011–12 school year is a modest 2.36 percent increase, which means that the jobs of untenured teachers could be in jeopardy.

“We have very few choices,” superintendent Elliot Landon said. “We’ll try not to cut staff, but if the cut is significant, as it has been in recent years, we won’t have any other choice but to go into staffing.”

This February, two waves of letters were sent out to untenured teachers informing them that they will need to reapply for their positions for the upcoming school year. Currently there are 40 untenured teachers who have received these letters.

Teacher X, who is untenured and was granted anonymity due to the delicate nature of the matter, said that he or she was notified about the letters prior to their distribution by the Teachers’ Union. Teacher X added that the union was able to discuss with administrators a process of contacting non-tenured teachers face-to-face, rather than simply sending out letters without a warning.

“It was nice to have the face to face; it allowed me to ask questions about it, so that was definitely a good change,” Teacher X said. “But I mean, hearing that you’re possibly not going to have a job is not an easy thing to hear, especially when you work really hard and really long hours and know you are fulfilling your duties as a teacher.”

Teacher X agreed that the language of the letter was disconcerting to some of the teachers, in that it was very personalized and without any indication of reassurance.

A second untenured faculty member, who was granted anonymity for the same reason, Teacher Y, agreed that the tone of the letter was “off-putting” and made teachers feel uncomfortable.

“The way it’s written, it kind of sounds like you’ve done a bad job,” Teacher Y said. “But I trust that it’s going to work out okay.”

Teacher X said that because he or she has never experienced this before, the administration’s reassurances are more believable. But the teacher noted that the letter was perceived differently by some of the teachers who have been in a similar situation before and lost their jobs. “For some of the teachers in this office, this is a re–run,” the teacher said. “It’s a little more personal.”

According to Landon, in early May, the BOE will go before members of the Representative Town Meeting, who are at liberty to make the decision to alter the budget.

“There is no certainty that we will retain the funds that we have requested and it is extremely possible that reductions made to our budget will be significant in size and scope,” Landon said.

Dodig agrees that the school has cut out everything possible in order to avoid cutting programs. Maintenance projects have been postponed, including fixing the inner workings of the pool and refinishing the track and field house floor.

“There are no new building projects to speak of,” Landon said. “My perspective is that there are no other areas where we have flexibility to cut.”

Landon added that due to the uncertainty regarding next year’s staffing, he feels it is necessary to tell teachers the reality of the situation and advise them to “protect themselves.”

Landon noted that especially in light of the recent economy and job market, these warnings could be helpful to endangered teachers so that they have due time to seek out employment elsewhere.

“I have options, and I know of a few other people who have sent out their résumés,” the same anonymous teacher said. “[But] we might miss the peak of job searching, so that if they do cut teacher jobs, [the administration is] not going to give us the time to find them, which is pretty horrible.”

Still, these warnings have sparked the nerves of many teachers, regardless of whether or not they will be warranted.

“People are very nervous and very discouraged,” tenured English teacher Jesse Bauks, who serves as a Building Representative for the Teachers’ Union, said. “I’m worried as a teacher and colleague because from a professional standpoint, I learn from younger colleagues.”

But for the time being, no final decisions have been made concerning the budget. Until then, all that untenured teachers can do is sit tight and wait.

At 2:15 p.m. every afternoon, these teachers will continue their conferencing routines. And as students file into department offices each period, teachers will continue to wait – for their students and for their jobs.