DCPS teachers get ‘excessing’ notices

It wasn’t exactly the most ceremonious way end to Teacher Appreciation Week. On Friday, the District sent large numbers of DCPS teachers--possibly hundreds, according to WTU president Nathan Saunders--their “excessing” notices. It means that budget, enrollment or programming changes have eliminated their jobs effective next month.

The notices have been expected for months. Rising teacher salaries and squeezed school budgets made the action a virtual certainty.

“I’m very concerned,” said Saunders, who said he is scheduled to meet with Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson on Tuesday. He also said he doesn’t buy the budget as reason for the excessing, especially with DCPS actively recruiting prospective new teachers.

Henderson’s office did not respond to requests Monday for confirmation, but teachers at Duke Ellington and Phelps high schools and the Transition Academy@ Shadd all report receiving notices. One teacher at Johnson Middle School said the entire staff has been excessed because the school will be reconstituted under the provisions of the No Child Left Behind law.

Here’s at least part of the letter teachers received:

“Annually, it is necessary for District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) to equalize staff assignments to be in alignment with student enrollment. As a result of this equalization, your current position has been removed from the (deleted name of school / hs) staffing plan effective June 17, 2011.”

It could leave significant numbers of educators out of work. Under the old collective bargaining agreement, excessing was handled on a seniority basis, and teachers cut loose were guaranteed other spots in the school system. But under the Michelle Rhee-era contract signed last year, excessing is “performance-based,” using a set of criteria that includes an educator’s most recent evaluation, “unique skills and qualifications” and “contributions to the local education community.” Seniority still counts, but not for nearly as much.

Moreover, placement of excessed teachers requires “mutual consent,” meaning that school principals aren’t required to take them on. Those teachers in good standing who cannot find a position have the option of accepting a $25,000 buyout, early retirement (with 20 years or more of service) or a year at full salary and benefits to keep looking for a spot within the school system.

But Saunders says that under the new contract, excessing is just a genteel form of firing.

“Excessing is the new teacher firing,” he said. “It’s a lot more palatable, politically correct term.”.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.

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