“It’s chaos for our students. They crave routine and stability. They never know who their teachers are going to be from one month to the next. It’s stressful for all of us and makes me worry about our students’ safety and continuity of instruction.”
That’s Lakewood Education Association President Kimberlee Shaw, responding to the School Board’s revelation at Wednesday night’s public meeting that is was not renewing the contracts of 30 non-tenured teachers. The Board’s decision (recommended by Superintendent Laura Winters—all Board “action items” are technically superintendent recommendations) is in spite of the fact that more than 100 staff members have left the district since last June and there are reports of a teacher shortage.
Of course, school board can choose to not renew — or fire—non-tenured teachers at will, no justification required, until the teacher has had four years of “effective” classroom instruction. Yet 30 removals is a lot.
One clue is the Lakewood School Board agenda from Wednesday. (Click here.) On page 60 (yes, it’s a long agenda) you’ll see a list of names titled “LEA Certified – Non-Tenured (10 Months) Effective: September 1, 2021 Terminating: June 30, 2022.” Translation: these are members of the Lakewood Education Association with state certification for their jobs who are non-tenured. Therefore, each year the Board can choose to renew them or not renew them until they receive the job security that comes with tenure.
There are about 200 people on this list, out of a teaching cadre of about 500. This speaks to constant churn among teachers. This is good for the Board –non-tenured teachers have lower salaries because they have less seniority–but is bad for students, as noted by Shaw.
From the Lakewood union’s press release, via Asbury Park Press:
The district has a history of firing non-tenured teachers without cause. Most of these teachers and staff members report being ‘blindsided’ by their non-renewals since they had positive evaluations and no history of disciplinary issues. Meanwhile, they’ve had little to no support from the district through mentoring or professional development. The district also lost nearly its entire guidance department and Child Study Team at the high school at a time when student mental health is at crisis level and the district is implementing a new Social-Emotional Learning initiative.
Shaw added, “Lakewood’s schools have been fully open all year, having these staff members risking their own personal safety. They’ve covered classes beyond their assignments and worked through their lunch and prep periods only to be kicked to the curb.”