Probationary teachers get the boot in Moorhead

This is the time of the year when we wonder why anyone would want to be a teacher in Minnesota. It’s layoff time.

Last night, for example, the school board in Moorhead voted 6-to-1 to fire 20 probationary teachers. No teachers or parents spoke at the meeting, a different scenario from earlier this month when almost 100 people showed up to protest the terminations, the Fargo Forum reports.

“Schools have climates, and this has already created anxiousness for new teachers and veterans alike,” Thomas Dooher, a teacher who is not probationary, said at the earlier meeting. “Teachers are not disposable, and this non-renewal (of their contracts) says they are.”

They are

If you want to be a teacher here, you better be prepared to jump through hoops as described by the paper:

Under Minnesota law, teachers who are on probationary status can be terminated for any reason until they have been offered a contract three times, at which point they have tenure. Many of those who were terminated were foreign language teachers, including those in the Spanish-immersion program, who had expertise but often lacked proper credentials. Many of the others were special education teachers, who must have special credentials.

Take note: The problem wasn’t expertise. It was credentials. Some of the teachers who lost their jobs had no marks against them in staff evaluations.

“Are we setting probationary teachers up to fail?” asked school board member Matt Valan, the only vote against the firings.

He’s also concerned about the number of teacher resignations this year.

“I remain troubled over the list of resignations – some, I am still convinced, were made because those teachers felt they had no other option but to do that at the protection of their own career,” he said.

  • Many teachers deal with this each and every year until they have enough seniority.

    It’s still complete BS, but it’s SOP for many districts….

    • chlost

      That’s my understanding as well. Then as the next school year gets figured out as to final numbers and class sizes, these teachers can apply to get their jobs back.

      • Gary F

        And then many school districts hire on at the last minute in August. A very tough game to play for starting out in an industry.

    • Which brings up the oft-asked question here: Why would you put up with the uncertainty of it all? Sure, they could reapply for their positions, but that doesn’t pay the rent or get you a new apartment in the next school district that hires you.

      I suspect without looking that the drop-out rate for teachers in this age and experience group is somewhat staggering.

      • MrE85

        “Which brings up the oft-asked question here: Why would you put up with the uncertainty of it all?”

        You could ask a journalist the same question, no?

      • >>Why would you put up with the uncertainty of it all?<<

        That's one reason I could never be a teacher.

      • Mike Worcester

        //I suspect without looking that the drop-out rate for teachers in this age and experience group is somewhat staggering.
        Absolutely. The low pay. The expectations. The stress. It all adds up for many to just say, screw this…

        Also, the sad but true part is pretty much all of my teacher friends expect this game (forgive that term but it really does seem to be that despite the ramifications of the decisions made) to be played early in their careers. Heck most of them live bare bones until they know they will be settled in a district for the long haul. It’s a ridiculous way to have to start a career but if one asks pretty much any young teacher, that’s the story they will most likely hear.

      • AL287

        Since substitute teaching is my only source of earned income, I’m finding it harder and harder to find sub jobs on a daily basis.

        I think there are a lot of teachers that are giving up full-time teaching and doing substitute teaching due to the hassles of budget cuts, individual education plans (IEP’s), non-existent parents for conferences and just plain old, badly behaved kids whose parents think they can do no wrong and sadly, the administration in the majority of cases, caves in.

        Students have so many days/hours off from school due to mandatory attendance at meetings and professional training requirements, teachers are under increasing pressure to get it done with less time to get instructional teaching in.

        There are a lot of students who cannot grasp content in the allotted time in the classroom so they get extra instruction and are pulled from the classroom for math and reading where they miss the main focus of the content and then have to play catch up later.

        I consider myself a good substitute but there is no substitute for a teacher with 1 year of experience or 30 who does his/her job day in and day out.

        Teachers today are in the same boat as nurses. They are underappreciated and overworked and if they don’t fit into the bottom line, they are quickly shown the door.

        Show your child’s teacher you value their contribution to your child’s learning and show up for conferences and return phone calls when they call you or send emails.

        • Jack

          //They are underappreciated and overworked and if they don’t fit into the bottom line, they are quickly shown the door.//

          Sadly it seems that all organizations are run like a business. Our national motto could be “Race to the Bottom (line)”.

    • Jeff

      I thought it was because it’s all about seniority and the union opposes any merit based criteria.

  • MrE85

    When they start arming the teachers, will they get to keep their guns when they get fired?

    • jon

      Will they get to take their guns to school board meetings?

      Think of the safety.

      • MrE85

        If more guns are the answer to violence in our schools, they must be the answer for everything.

    • Robert

      Wait a second….we have jumped on Gary (rightly so in my opinion) before for inserting unnecessary politics in a thread; isn’t this doing the same thing albeit from the opposite viewpoint?

      • Gary F

        The ones that have been through the FASTER program might be more marketable to other districts.

      • MrE85

        If my segue from school personnel practices to a actual proposal many are making to make schools safer is deemed political, I’m willing to live with that. As for Gary’s comments, I see nothing against the rules. Bob runs a tight ship here, which means its one of the few comment sections that won’t make your stomach turn.

  • Gary F

    And as the last of the baby boomer teachers retire, you wonder who will fill their ranks?

  • Christie Burke

    Bob, I would love to help with a deep dive into this issue. A few brief remarks that just scratch the surface:
    The probationary language is statewide and by statute. I was probationary in a public district in years 18 and 19 of my teaching career, because I’d worked in non public settings prior to that. (I have not yet achieved that third probationary year… because I resigned prior to year 20, which would be this year. My license is up for renewal in 2019.)
    Pink slipping is not only common, it is near universal.
    August hiring is sometimes because summer enrollments increase the student numbers enough to pay another teacher. Sometimes it’s because a teacher resigns in the late summer. No principal is trying to string their faculty along or hiring last-minute out of spite.
    I’m not touching the union issue in this forum, as I don’t want to stir the pot. 🙂
    Finally, I’d recommend the book “It Won’t Be Easy” by Tom Rademacher, a past MN Teacher of the Year. It’s vivid and true and heartbreaking and awesome. Those stories are why we put up with all the mess. (Warning: liberal use in the book of the word “s**t show.” Just FYI. 😊)