MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Since we're all about all things haunted this week, how's this for a haunting thought? What if your job just disappeared even after you received a strong evaluation from your boss? That's precisely what happened to a bunch of D.C. Public School teachers. They're now on the unemployment rolls, despite good marks from their superiors. Kavitha Cardoza spoke with several of these teachers to find out how it happened.
MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA
Patricia Hoyle was teaching at Anacostia High School in Southeast D.C. when she received a letter.
MS. PATRICIA HOYLE
Your position with DCPS is being terminated at the close of business on Friday, August 12, 2011.
She says it's ironic, after teaching English for decades, she's been struggling to articulate how she feels.
I don't know if there's a word for it.
Hoyle is one of 187 teachers and staff rated effective or highly effective who are among assessed during the 2009-2010 school year. That means they lost their jobs because of budget cuts, programming changes or declining enrollment. These employees could leave immediately and collect $25,000 or they had one year to find another job within DCPS. During that grace year, Hoyle couldn’t find a principal willing to hire her.
Nathan Saunders is president of the Washington Teacher's Union, which has filed a grievance on behalf of 21 teachers in similar positions.
MR. NATHAN SAUNDERS
What sense does it make to get rid of a teacher who has proven themselves in this system to be effective or highly effective?
Saunders says when the District was hiring for this academic year.
What the union would've liked to have seen is that any teacher who's rated effective or highly effective simply be placed first by D.C. Public Schools.
Scott Thompson is director of teacher effectiveness for DCPS. He says overall 90 percent of effective and highly effective teachers stay in their jobs. Of those excised, 60 percent found jobs at the end of the 2010-2011 school year. He says it's up to principals at each school, not the central office, to make decisions about hiring.
MR. SCOTT THOMPSON
This is really a fundamental belief. In no professional context is a firm required to hire a certain person.
Thompson says the school system is working to retain its best teachers. DCPS is providing teachers more leadership opportunities and the chancellor is personally speaking to those rated highly effective to let them know their work is appreciated. As for those who are excised, Thompson says the school system has held several job fairs for these teachers and staff, but they won't be matched in every case.
We think that, at the end of the day, if you've gone on 10 or 12 interviews, I mean, you can't find a principal who's willing to take you, that's probably okay.
Another former teacher, Edwina Riddick-Bush taught special education at Mamie Lee in Northeast D.C. She, too, was rated effective both years before she was excised.
MS. EDWINA RIDDICK-BUSH
I don't know how I'm going to make it. I need a job badly.
Riddick-Bush isn't just struggling financially. She's struggling to understand why she doesn't have a job when she feels she's done everything right. She has all her teaching certificates and licenses in order. She worked long hours with her students and was given a stamp of approval from the District's own evaluation system. The worst part, she says, is the expression on people's faces when she tells them she's no longer with DCPS. Riddick-Bush says she knows exactly what they're thinking, that she's one of the so-called bad teachers.
I told them I have an effective rating, you know, but they have the look on their face that says, you're not telling the truth. And you are. I mean, I don't carry my paperwork with me.
Riddick-Bush says she's trying not to get depressed as she gathers up her papers and reluctantly puts them back in her folder.
This has been my life for 21 years, I mean, I can't see any other way.
She's working hard to reinvent herself because right now, retirement isn't an option. I'm Kavitha Cardoza.
After the break, ghost hunting on Capitol Hill.
MR. TIM KREPP
So she walks into this room and the bed is still made up, but has clearly been laid in and there's been a depression in the pillow. She goes and looks over there and there's a single white pearl left in the depression of the pillow and that was the last she ever saw or felt of the ghost.
It's just ahead on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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