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Letter to the Editor 

If a teacher has made a difference in your life, you need to pay close attention to the contents of this letter. I have a soft spot for teachers. You could say that it is a family business for me. My mother, sister, aunt, uncle, and four first cousins are all educators. This will be my 23rd year as a teacher, coach, and now an administrator in Chilton County. In all of that time, I have never felt the need to publically address an issue in education; however my reason for writing is very simple: I have always believed that the single best thing that we as leaders can do for our students is put highly qualified, capable teachers in every classroom and then give those teachers the tools they need to succeed. Recently, however, that belief was attacked by a motion that was presented and voted on by our Board of Education to forcibly non-renew all non-tenured teachers in the system; a total of 106 educators. Fortunately, this motion failed to pass by a vote of 3-to-3. However, in a subsequent Clanton Advertiser article, it was stated by a member of the Board of Education that leadership “expects the vote to be reconsidered at the next meeting.” In the paragraphs that follow, I hope to explain to the public the disrespect and lack of appreciation that these words and actions are showing to, not just these 106 teachers, but all teachers in our communities. 

The public has been told that these forced non-renewals are an attempt to rectify financial issues. The facts are that these financial issues were not caused by any of these employees or the school buildings in which they work. Yet, the teachers are the ones that are suffering the consequences of these errors. For the 13 affected employees at my local school (Thorsby High School), the SUM of these errors is only $155 per year. That is less than $12 per year for each employee. These numbers are concrete and verifiable through pay stubsIt is astounding to me that our leadership would go to these lengths for such a small amount, while at the same time distorting data to meet some agenda. I will personally reimburse the board of education this amount each year for as long as these teachers teach in our district if they will let this matter rest and investigate other ways to rectify this financial issue. 

Secondly, if any teacher is non-renewed by a school system, they are forced to report this action on their employment history on the Teach in Alabama database. Through no fault of their own, these 106 teachers would have to report to any future employer that they were fired by the Chilton County Board of Education. The public needs to know that these employees were not non-renewed at the recommendation of their principal for poor job performance, but rather at the mandate of Board leadership due to their financial error. It would be in the best, professional interest of these teachers to resign rather than have a non-renewal attached to their employment record. In fact, some of these 106 teachers have already explored this option. 

Next, it seems that absolutely no consideration is being given to the fact that we are in the middle of a statewide teacher shortage, as well as the current COVID-19 crisis. These teachers have risked exposure and, in many cases, contraction of the virus to educate our children. As repayment for their dedication and loyalty, this is how they are treated. While Board leadership makes formal statements that these teachers are “appreciated,” some Board members’ actions do not seem consistent with these statements. To quote the book of Matthew, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.” 

Lastly, if across the board non-renewals are going to be a board of education policy for non-tenured teachers, as a professional courtesy the prospective employees should be informed during the interview and hiring process that there is a possibility that they will be non-renewed at the end of the school year, regardless of job performance. It is not good practice to implement a policy like this at the back end of an academic year. Our professional educators deserve better than being blind-sided at the end of an already difficult year. They are willingly choosing to come to our communities, excelling in their field, making a difference in children’s lives and then being told that they will be non-renewed. In a profession where we are constantly being reminded to implement “best practices, this seems like the farthest thing from a best practice. It’s time that we do the right thing and show our teachers how much they mean to our communities. Your children deserve the very best. Please help us do all that we can to keep the very best teachers in Chilton County. 

 

A concerned principal, 

Corey Clements