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District Dumps Top Teacher

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Although officials of the privately organized standards board said they were surprised by the news, they have not made any efforts to intervene on Lishak's behalf. "The work she submitted to us showed very high standards, so this news was very disheartening to hear,'' said Joanne Kogan Krell, a board spokeswoman. "But while we're interested, we don't have a role to play here.''

Since the Opelika board's May 25 decision, Lishak has not chosen to seek formal union representation. (In fact, she declined to discuss the board's decision.) The action, however, has drawn the ire of the Alabama Education Association and the local newspaper, which asked in an editorial why the district would let a top instructor get away "in an age when good teachers are harder to find than fresh strawberries in November.''

Joel Graham, a field representative for the AEA, said he would like the board to explain its action. "They realized what they were doing,'' he said. "They used that she was board-certified to get publicity for the district, and after they got all it was worth, they dumped her.''

According to the union, the principal at Opelika Middle School and an assistant superintendent met with Lishak in advance of the May board meeting to explain that despite a string of glowing evaluations, her contract might not be renewed. Graham of the AEA asked to speak on the teacher's behalf at the meeting, but he was not placed on the agenda. He said the board appeared to have decided the issue even before it came up for discussion.

Officials of the standards board have been concerned about how the teachers it certifies will be received by their districts and peers. Responses to the first round of certified teachers varied widely, board officials say. In some schools, fellow teachers were jealous of their certified colleagues, seeing them as prima donnas. In others, teachers were supportive.

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