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Posted on Thu, Jun. 27, 2002 story:PUB_DESC
41 Duluth teachers lose jobs
District terminates nontenured staff without recall rights


Departing from what it has done in the past, the Duluth School Board terminated 41 nontenured teachers at its June 18 meeting.

Previously, the School Board would sometimes lay off nontenured teachers who had performed well. Laid-off teachers had recall rights. Teachers terminated, however, have lost any seniority and will have to compete against all other applicants.

"These people no longer have any rights in the district at all, despite the fact that many of them were doing a fine job," Duluth Federation of Teachers President Frank Wanner said Tuesday. "The district can, if they decide to hire people back, pick and choose. And we're not sure on what basis they'll be doing that.

"Legally, the district can do that," he said. "They can terminate nontenured teachers for any reason. The district is well within its rights, but being within your rights doesn't make it the right thing to do."

The district used to terminate nontenured teachers who weren't performing well or had problems with their licenses. But the 41 teachers terminated this year include 27 who would have been laid off in the past.

It takes three years of consecutive employment in a vacant position to be become a tenured teacher. Termination sets nontenured teachers back to square one.

Mary Kearney, the district's director of labor relations and human resources, said there are several reasons the district did things differently this year.

"The reality of having longer, continued layoffs is more a fact now than it was before," she said. "To not have people on layoff and to have straight termination gives us more flexibility with staffing and program needs for students, being able to match the best teacher with the program."

Adding to the number of terminations is the fact that about 20 fewer teachers retired than the district expected, Kearney said.

In voting to terminate the teachers, the School Board directed administration to notify the affected teachers via mail by July 1.

The terminations, and the way in which they were done, has teachers upset.

"I thought it was disrespectful," said Rachel Payne, a nontenured fifth-grade teacher at Lowell Magnet who was terminated. She has taught three years.

"All I needed to do was walk in the door on Sept. 7, and I would be tenured," she said.

She didn't know that terminations were coming until a friend watching last week's School Board meeting called her.

"People didn't know about this," she said. "It came out of the blue."

"If they were going to do this, they should have said 'Heads up, this may be coming down the pipe,' because I would have done some things differently," Payne said. "I spent the two weeks after school ended getting ready for the next year. I had planned my curriculum through December.

"I know there's nothing anyone can do," she said. "Legally, they did what they could do. Morally and professionally, I think that there are some major issues here. They could have given us a heads-up."

STEVE KUCHERA can be reached at (218) 279-5503, toll free at (877) 269-9672 or by e-mail at

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