Former Rochester School Board member: Scrap teacher tenure system

/ 17 April 2012 / jennifer

Heather J. Carlson, Rochester Post-Bulletin, April  17, 2012 –

ST. PAUL — A former Rochester School Board member traveled to St. Paul on Tuesday to urge the governor to sign a bill scrapping the state’s teacher seniority system.

Fred Daly joined other supporters for the change during a Capitol press conference. Daly said that while he was on the Rochester School Board he saw firsthand how the tenure system hurts the quality of education in the district.

“Those teachers who were ineffective are still in the classroom,” he said. “We’re supposed to be here to help our kids, but it doesn’t seem like we are doing any good.”

The Republican-led House and Senate have passed similar versions of a bill that would abolish the so-called “Last In, First Out” policy. They still need to approve a compromise version before it heads to the governor. The measure would require administrators to take teacher performance into account when determining layoffs instead of relying solely on seniority.

Critics of the proposal say it does not make sense to toss out the tenure system when it is still not known what criteria will be used to evaluate teachers. A proposed teacher-evaluation system won’t be in place until 2014.

“Just to say we are going to get rid of seniority and we have nothing to replace it with, I think is very short-sighted,” said DFL Rep. Tina Liebling.

Others have raised concerns that administrators will lay off teachers with more seniority solely in order to save more money.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has said he has serious concerns with the proposal. Supporters of the measure are ramping up pressure on the governor. Daly joined several other backers who delivered more than 750 postcards to the governor’s office, asking him to sign the bill when it comes to him.

Daly said he wanted to speak out against the tenure system after witnessing a round of layoffs in Rochester in 2009. That’s when budget woes prompted the school board to lay off 78 teachers. Daly said all the probationary teachers were cut, and other teachers were laid off based on seniority. A number of teachers were bumped by others with more seniority, even though that meant they could be teaching a subject they had not taught in years.

“By the end of the summer, we had a huge turnover in staff, a huge morale problem, and we were in an even worse position to close the achievement gap,” he said.

Daly lost re-election in 2010.

Rochester Education Association President Kit Hawkins said she totally disagrees with Daly’s assertion that the teacher tenure system allows ineffective teachers to stay in the classroom.

“Rochester is specifically working on a very strong teacher and principal evaluation program right now, and we hold all of our teachers accountable,” she said.