To the Editor:
I am retiring this year after 41 years in education, and I want to comment on the Commentary by David Finley (“Teacher Tenure: An Innocent Victim of Vergara v. California,” March 4, 2015) on teacher tenure.
As a superintendent and a principal for many years, I have been successful in not renewing the contracts of incompetent tenured teachers based on evaluations. Although it takes more time and work, it can and should be done.
However, the essay fails to mention that in order to be successful, the administration must have the support of its local school board. This is sometimes difficult to obtain in smaller districts, where the tenured teacher may have friends on the board or may even be related to a board member. My experience has been that once a principal takes a recommendation of non-renewal to the school board that is justified and properly documented, and it is not supported for personal or political reasons, the principals of the district get the message to leave the tenured teachers alone. The board has basically destroyed the teacher evaluation system that was in place.
I also found another statement in the Commentary ironic. While it is true that it does not take long at all to determine an outstanding teacher from an incompetent one, the evaluation system required in most states has become so tedious and time consuming that it bogs down the entire process. Principals do not need to waste their time with a lot of documentation when they already know a teacher is outstanding, other than to express appreciation to the teacher for the job performed. They need to spend their time working with the weaker teachers, and if improvement is not made, remove them from the classroom.
Greene County Tech School District
For more reader opinions about Vergara v. California and the implications for teacher tenure, browse the following letters:
• “Teacher-Tenure Essay Draws Passionate Response,” April 15, 2015.
• “Bad Leaders Damage More Than a Classroom,” April 15, 2015.
• “Teachers Aren’t Alone in Being Vilified,” April 15, 2015.
A version of this article appeared in the April 15, 2015 edition of Education Week as Teacher-Tenure Essay Draws Passionate Responses