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How long should Pasco schools protect jobs of teachers who move to charters?

Holding a post open for two years is too long, some board members say.
Pasco County School Board member Colleen Beaudoin [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
Pasco County School Board member Colleen Beaudoin [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times] [ JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK | Times ]
Published Sep. 11, 2019

Every once in a while, a Pasco County teacher chooses to leave a district school to go work at a charter school.

It’s not a frequent occurrence. But School Board vice chairwoman Colleen Beaudoin has heard from principals that it’s a troublesome situation.

Why? Because state law allows the teachers to keep their district jobs even as they transfer to the publicly funded, privately operated alternative.

And that makes it difficult for schools to find replacements, knowing that the teacher on leave could come back and reclaim the position. Based on the law, the district’s employment contract renews the teacher’s leave annually, and holds the spot at a specific school for up to two years, assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley explained.

“I don’t think it’s fair for our students,” Beaudoin said. “It puts our leaders in a tough spot.”

She asked her colleagues on the board if they would be willing to recommend changes to either the state law or the district contract, in order to give the principals more flexibility.

If the guaranteed leave exists, Beaudoin suggested, perhaps the state or district might agree to maintain the teacher’s job at the district level, with no guarantees of a specific spot at a certain school if and when they return.

Board member Cynthia Armstrong, who represents the district on the state school boards association’s legislative committee, said she could bring the idea forward for the group’s 2020 platform. But she added that it might be more effective to work with the district’s lobbyist, Wayne Bertsch, to attach the idea to a charter school related bill.

Shibley put forth that the district administration might also place the idea on the table during contract negotiations, as a way toward a local solution that stays within the bounds of the existing statute.

Board members agreed that they did not want to take away the teachers’ job protections. At the same time, they did not want district classrooms to rely on substitutes and short-term hires while waiting to find out whether someone who left for a charter is coming back. (Most don’t, Shibley told the board.)

“We want them to come back,” said board member Megan Harding, who took advantage of the leave policy while teaching in the district.

But the charter leave should not mean indefinitely holding a job at a specific campus, she said.

The board asked the administration to continue looking into the issue.