DCPS prepares to ‘excess’ fewer than 350 teachers

D.C. Public Schools officials say they anticipate sending fewer than 350 “excess” notices to teachers whose jobs have been eliminated because of budget cuts or changes to academic programs.

That number is in line with recent years despite the fact that 13 schools are slated to close in June, displacing hundreds of teachers. DCPS Chief of Human Capital Jason Kamras said the school system has worked closely with the Washington Teachers Union to match educators in closing schools with vacancies elsewhere.

“This is the first year that we’ve made a very aggressive push to try to get principals focused on hiring early,” Kamras said.

As of late April, more than 500 teachers who were slated to lose their jobs had not yet found another job. That number is now down to 341 and is likely to shrink further, Kamras said, before official excess notices are delivered later this month.

Last year, 355 teachers were excessed; in 2011, the number was 384.

Excessed teachers are not automatically out of a job. They have 60 days to find a new position within the school system.

If they fail, their fates depend on their job evaluations. Those rated below effective are fired, while those rated effective or above can choose between a $25,000 buyout; a “grace” year of employment, during which they’re placed in another DCPS school; or retirement, if they have enough years of service.

Historically about 60 percent of excessed teachers have been retained.

Excessing decisions used to be made by seniority, and teachers who lost their jobs were guaranteed new ones. But that changed under the terms of the 2010 labor contract negotiated by then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Now excessing decisions are based largely on performance and skills; seniority plays only a minor role. And excessed teachers aren’t promised a new job — they will continue to work only if they can persuade a principal to hire them.

Those new terms have been a source of tension between the school system and teachers union. Schools officials say principals must have the power to decide who works in their buildings, while union officials say excessing has become a tool for getting rid of educators in a city already struggling with high teacher turnover.

In recent years excessing has contributed to “constant churning” in schools, said WTU President Nathan Saunders, and has not led to significant improvement in student achievement.

“I’m interested in helping people to become better teachers, not creating loopholes to get them fired,” he said.

Emma Brown writes about national education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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