Sometimes the education system seems gummed against the very lubricant to the entire enterprise – teachers.
Wonder why teacher recruitment and retention trends are down?
There are myriad targets on the dartboard.
The onset of standardized testing and the insistence of state and federal lawmakers, who are certainly graded on no such scale, to tie teacher salaries to test scores.
Given how the Florida Legislature’s recent session played out, how about tying the salaries of lawmakers to their production or lack thereof?
That’d be an eye-opening for the whole bunch.
In any case, other factors such as breakdowns in the family unit that often leave instructors as child-care providers have also been no help for luring good teachers.
And, not to sound like a fogie, student generations of the day seem more fluid in their attention spans and interest in education.
But, take a look at school board agenda packets around the state this time of year.
For this is the time of year that districts perform the annual contract non-renewal/renewal dance that teachers and non-instructional personnel on annual contracts, effectively in their first three years, must endure.
The reasoning, I suppose, is understandable.
School district fiscal years are different from all other governments, which seems right because in just about every way school budgets are unlike any county or municipal budget.
The district’s new year starts July 1.
So, the districts must put shape to the coming budget year though the final numbers are determined by the Florida Legislature; at the end of session, just this week, and adoption of the budget.
The district’s revenue stream is mapped out entirely in Tallahassee and not known to districts until early May, at the earliest.
If the governor follows through with expressed thoughts about vetoing the entire budget, forcing lawmakers back into session, districts may not know for weeks what their budget numbers actually are.
So every year, until the district knows what level of funding will be available, and won’t receive that knowledge until mere weeks before final adoption of the budget, flexibility is necessary.
Districts are not allowed, even on paper or temporarily, to run in the red.
Well, consider how new employees feel given that the flexibility comes on their backs; or maybe stomach ulcers.
Last week, the Gulf County School Board approved a lengthy list of teachers and employees on annual contracts that will not have their contracts renewed for the coming year (wink, wink).
They are technically unemployed.
Now, the overwhelming will be offered a contract when the budget is finalized at the end of next month, but for these next five or six weeks they are, at least technically, without a job.
They may be fantastic employees, may be rated “highly effective” in the classroom or go way above and beyond in the lunch room or maintenance shops, but tough noogies.
They must wait for the vagaries of lawmakers and others.
And, this is not the sole province of Gulf District Schools; this is all 67 districts in the state.
Now, while there may be fine reasons for this waltz due to district planning and budgeting for the coming year, this has always seemed, no matter the county, somewhat cruel to a whole lot of good folks.
Folks who have decided to devote at least this portion of their career to teaching, impacting young lives, and who aren’t doing it for the high salaries and gold-standard benefits.
As the offspring of a teacher of more than three decades, who chose that path after bringing into the world and nurturing six children, as the brother of a teacher of special needs children, this annual ritual around annual contracts seems counterintuitive to retaining good teachers and effective employees.
It says, here’s your reward for fine work this past school year: we’ll make you sweat the next few weeks while we decide whether or not to keep you for next year.
Talk about stress.
And until you have three years in and can earn a continuing contract, well, welcome to the world of education where true commitment is a one-way avenue.
Adding to the surrealness of last week’s meeting was that it arrived the week before a week set aside nationally to “appreciate” teachers across the country.
In Florida, that appreciation is, apparently, just a suggestion.
But, the sad reality of it is, the annual contract dance is just another in a long list that underscores that when folks (cough, lawmakers, cough) begin examining and legislating the ills of education, they should start in the mirror rather than the classroom.
They could certainly find better ways to conduct this annual contract dance if they ever bothered.