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
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
"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
"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
STEVE KUCHERA can be reached at (218)
279-5503, toll free at (877) 269-9672 or by e-mail at email@example.com.