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Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

Tenure Superintendents say leave it alone

Monday, April 16, 2012

By SARABETH WALLER

Staff Writer

A proposal that recently received first-round approval in the Missouri Senate would require teachers to spend 10 years in a district before seeking tenure, a move some local educators say is a bad one. Currently, a certified teacher is tenured after five years in a school district.

If approved, Senate Bill 806 goes into effect July 2013, and would apply to teachers who do not have tenure by then.

"I really don't see a need for them changing the tenure," said Twin Rivers R-X Superintendent Mike Stevenson. "Five years will give you enough time to know if a teacher is suitable for your school or not."

The current proposal is a scaled back version of an earlier one that would have abolished tenure altogether. Stevenson said the focus on tenure is part of a larger attack on public schools.

"Some of the bills that are being offered in the state now, several of them are just attacking public schools through different areas," he said. "I find it really offensive because of what the schools across the state have been able to accomplish through the last few years, especially with the shortage in our revenues."

At Twin Rivers, Stevenson said the district has lost more than $1 million over the past three years between the decreased funding formula and transportation cuts.

"How much more effective could we be if we had that extra million dollars?" he said.

Some of the proposed solutions to tenure are based on unfair assumptions, Stevenson continued.

"It's under the assumption that teachers, for the most part, once they get tenure, think, 'Hey, I can slack off,'" he said. "For the most part, our teachers are more dedicated than that. They got into education for their drive and their love of kids. The attacks are coming based on some false assumptions."

Doniphan Superintendent Daniel Schlief said the current system works, if it's utilized correctly.

"We've already got a system that takes care of good teachers ... and to improve teachers who are struggling or move them out of the profession," he said.

"What I think we need to see more of is well-trained administrators that are truly instructional leaders and are using good tools to evaluate teachers and doing it consistently," Schlief added. "The teaching profession is like any profession. We can always improve."

Schlief agrees five years is sufficient to evaluate a teacher's performance.

"You just need a long enough time period where you're not drawing conclusions from isolated situations," he said.

"Sometimes teaching can be a thankless job," Schlief said. "When you deal with so many people, you're always going to find a few that are unsatisfied with the job you're doing with the children."

Schlief said passage of the measure would not affect the performance of Doniphan teachers, but it could affect their morale.

"I think it would be somewhat of a morale breaker for educators who already feel they are under appreciated ... and an insult to the profession," he said.

Poplar Bluff R-I Superintendent Chris Hon said tenure could use reform, but not in the way proposed.

"It's kind of a simple way to look at the problem," he said. "I don't know that there's a lot of thought put into the answer. I think there's a lot of dialogue and study that could go into that."

Other solutions could include a "four-year roll-over" format for tenure. Regardless of the format, tenure is important for teachers to "help protect them from politics."

"There are cases where teachers have lost their jobs over politics, disciplining the wrong child," Hon said.

While tenure offers protection, it does not always prevent dismissal. Tenured teachers can be terminated for incompetency, immoral behavior, excessive absences or violation of state school regulations. With tenure, however, a district must present written charges. A tenured teacher facing dismissal can also request a hearing.

The bill is scheduled for a third reading Monday. If approved in the Senate, the proposal would move to the Missouri House.