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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Teacher tenure bill not a hit with school superintendents



If it wasn't revealing enough that some Republicans aren't supporting the Jeb-backed bill to scrap teacher tenure, another key group also appears lukewarm: superintendents.

“One of the primary reasons we have teachers entering the profession is for job stability,” Bill Montford, head of the Florida superintendents association, told the Senate PreK-12 Committee this week. “We believe there may be a better approach than this bill to address the issue of teacher ineffectiveness in the classroom.”

A couple of superintendents told the Gradebook they agree.

“I don’t know if it’s the right answer or not,” Hernando superintendent Wayne Alexander said of the bill. He said administrators need to be more diligent about identifying and weeding out bad teachers who aren’t improving, particularly during their first three years, when they’re on annual contracts. He said the current system is “exhaustive, but is appropriate.”

Marion County superintendent Jim Yancey, who appeared before the Senate committee a few weeks ago, said the firing process is “very cumbersome, long, detailed and time consuming.” But he also said he’d rather see the process streamlined and shortened rather than killing tenure altogether. “I think the system works okay if it were just more condensed,” he said.

Okaloosa County superintendent Alexis Tibbets, who also appeared before the Senate committee, was more supportive. She said in Okaloosa, it takes two and a half years to document and fire a tenured teacher. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say we get rid of tenure altogether,” Tibbets said. But “I don’t think anyone should make a professional service contract after three years and then stay (on it) for 35 years.”

By coincidence this week, Tibbets was dealing with a specific case of alleged teacher misconduct. Her district tried to fire a middle school teacher for accessing inappropriate Web sites on school computers, but an administrative law judge recommended last week that the district drop its charges.

Among the reasons, the judge wrote, “While it is certainly not unreasonable for the District to prohibit employees from viewing images of attractive women in swimsuits on a school computer, no such limitation can be inferred from the pertinent policy language” in the district’s electronic resource use policy.

Ron Matus and Shannon Colavecchio, Times staff writers


[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:20am]


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