System to dismiss 83 city teachers

To cut excess instructors, officials target those who let credentials lapse

October 15, 2003|By Tanika White and Liz Bowie | Tanika White and Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

More than 80 city teachers who have let their professional certificates lapse will receive termination letters in the mail this week as Baltimore school officials attempt to pare down the number of surplus teachers working in the system, officials said at a school board meeting last night.

The system hired teachers this year based on early projections suggesting that decades of enrollment declines would be reversed and that the number of city students would rise slightly - from 94,032 last year to 94,331.

But the latest enrollment figures show the system has 91,600 students, which has left it with nearly 300 more teachers than needed.

Faced with a projected $52 million cumulative budget deficit, officials said the fiscally prudent action is to get rid of excess teachers.

"They weren't arbitrary decisions," said school board member Brian Morris. The teachers who will be let go have "chosen not to recertify," he said. "We have a budgetary issue and a federal mandate."

Under a new federal law, school systems are expected to employ only qualified teachers.

To cull the numbers, officials are starting with teachers whose certificates have lapsed, said Shelia Dudley, the district's human resource director. Eighty-three teachers in the system have not updated their certificates since the 2000-2001 school year.

Repeatedly notified

"We have notified these teachers on many, many occasions," Dudley said, adding that some have received four letters asking them to renew their certificates. In some cases, that means teachers must take college courses and prove to the city school system that they have successfully completed them. Termination letters will be sent to those 83 teachers by Friday, she said.

It is unclear why the teachers with lapsed certificates were being terminated, and not laid off. Teachers who are laid off can be called back to work if the circumstances that caused the layoffs improve, said Baltimore Teachers Union President Marietta English. One who is terminated, or fired, generally will not be called back.

Either way, English said, the system's move to dismiss teachers is unsettling.

"What's the difference?" English said. "You still don't have a job."

School officials said they tried to keep layoffs and terminations to a minimum by first rearranging staff across the system.

Many surplus teachers will be moved into positions that are vacant, Dudley said.

For example, the system will give surplus teachers the opportunity to become special-education, art or music teachers at the elementary level. Dudley told school board members that the teachers would be trained to take those new positions.

Similar moves are expected at the middle and high school levels.

But those moves, together with the 83 terminations, might still leave the system with surplus teachers. Dudley said she would update the board in two weeks.

Priorities questioned

English said she has many questions for school system officials about the way surplus teachers have been handled.

"Why are we opening up new high schools if we don't have the children for them?" English said referring to recently opened innovative schools, such as Baltimore Freedom Academy and New Era Academy. "Let's be real."

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