Mark Sass, a teacher since 1994, teaches at Legacy High School in the Adams Five Star School District.
Public policy reflects our values. Embedded within the arcane and obtuse language of policy is evidence of what a society honors, admires, and respects. This holds true for policies that impact millions of us and for policies that affect a few.
Recently, I attended an “Appendix E” meeting at my school. Appendix E refers to the section in our master agreement dealing with layoffs in schools. Due to budget cuts, we have to cut a teacher in our department. The first to go are any probationary teachers. If there are no probationary teachers, you go to Appendix E and follow a protocol that involves a series of variables involving points. Since we have no probationary teachers, we had to use Appendix E.
A representative from human resources attends, as well as an association representative. All of the teachers are requested to attend, but not required. Each teacher has to fill out a “cheat sheet” that outlines the various point options for a teacher. This is an open and transparent process. At various points in the meeting, point totals are read aloud. It becomes apparent after a few readings who is not in danger of being cut. In case of a tie, Appendix E uses some tie-breaking formulas. At the end of the process, which took us about an hour, we all knew who was going to be cut.
We have a very professional and collegial department, so the process was not as tense as I imagine it can get. We joked about how we thought “there would be no math involved since we are all social science teachers.” Or that there should be an attendance bonus of 50 points for teachers who showed up to the process (some colleagues had other commitments, like coaching). I am very proud to be a member of such a thoughtful and open department.
At the end of the meeting I as well as a few colleagues I talked with, felt disappointed and ashamed at the means by which the decision was made. Ashamed that after it was all over, you could not say that the least effective teacher was cut. But then Appendix E isn’t about effectiveness in the classroom; as a matter of fact, there isn’t one reference in the entire process about what you do IN the classroom.
Here are the point opportunities. See if you can find what our process values:
State Certification/Licensure and Area- 26 points for endorsement in area to be reduced and another 5 points for any additional endorsement areas.
Teaching experience-one point per semester taught for a maximum total of 24 points. Additional points per semester for teaching experience outside of the district for a maximum total of 10 points. Points awarded for how long you have taught in your current school as well as points for time in other schools. The maximum total for these two areas cannot exceed 28 points.
Training-Points awarded, not to exceed 11, for training received through the district and for training outside of the district, not to exceed 11. Advanced degrees: 4 for masters, 8 for specialist degree, and 12 for doctorate.
Non-teaching Duties-Co-curricular sponsor, maximum of 4 points. Chairperson, 6 points maximum. Coaching, maximum of 9 points. Member of a committee, in building maximum 8 points, at district level maximum 4 points.
That’s it. That’s how our profession decides who is to be cut: longevity, training, membership on committees, and co-curricular. Can you imagine any other profession using only these characteristics as a representation of what they value? Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that longevity, training, membership, and co-curricular should be factors. But the only factors?
Our association is addressing some of the language in Appendix E. I hope that eventually, as SB 10-191 is implemented, teacher performance can be a factor in these decisions. Our current Appendix E language is a reflection of a time long past, a time when administrators used personal preference to make personnel decisions, a time when we put into policy values that have since changed.
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