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Published in Print: May 10, 2006, as Chicago Principals Fire About 1,000 Nontenured Teachers

Chicago Principals Fire About 1,000 Nontenured Teachers

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For the second year running, more than 1,000 Chicago teachers have been asked not to return to their schools in the coming fall.

Principals can dismiss “probationary appointed teachers”—those who are working toward tenure, which is granted only after four years in the system—by using a computer program to choose one of six reasons.

Late last month, the city’s board of education voted to dismiss the teachers. According to the 435,000-student district, the most frequently cited reason was an inability to manage classrooms. Other reasons included poor planning ability, low subject-matter knowledge, tardiness, poor communication abilities, and teachers’ attitudes.

Union officials, who oppose the dismissals approved on April 26, threatened to strike if the teachers’ contact is not revised in future negotiations to ban this practice.

Marilyn Stewart, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said in a statement that the union has filed numerous grievances against the board over the dismissals, and that some of last year’s cases are still in arbitration.

District spokesman Mike Vaughn sought to downplay the dismissals, saying that other school districts in Illinois have long had a similar system for dismissing probationary teachers.

“This is not a groundbreaking approach here,” he said last week.

Mr. Vaughn said that of the city’s 9,300 probationary teachers, only about 10 percent were dismissed, and that they were free to apply to other schools in Chicago. As many as 70 percent of the 1,100 teachers dismissed last year subsequently found jobs in other city schools, he said.

Union Surveys Firings

Union officials say that a survey they conducted after last year’s dismissals found that two-thirds of the dismissed teachers who responded to the survey had been rated excellent or superior by their principals, and that nearly half of those responding had been recruited by those principals.

The union survey, which drew responses from 329 of the 1,100 teachers fired, showed that teachers were dismissed without an evaluation by the principal, that many teachers who were in their third and fourth years of employment and therefore close to receiving tenure were dismissed, and that teachers who were in such circumstances as maternity or military service were dismissed.

Ms. Stewart that the union found patterns of abuse by principals “who saw the dismissals as an opportunity to remove nontenured teachers at the click of a button.”

Vol. 25, Issue 36, Page 8

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