Probationary teachers who are dismissed should not be entitled to a written explanation for their dismissal, Alexandria school board members told local legislators last week.
The procedure was suggested at a meeting held last week to discuss the board's position on legislation pending before the General Assembly. Under current personnel procedures, the superintendent may give detailed reasons to a probationary teacher who is not rehired, but is not required to do so.
There are 269 probationary teachers in Alexandria this year. All new teachers, regardless of whether they have had previous experience, are classified as probationary for the first three years of employment in Alexandria. The practice is common in school districts throughout the country.
"As the language stands now, a teacher has no protection from capricious judgments and virtually has no recourse if dismissed," argued Del. David Speck (R-Alexandria), who said he plans to sponsor in the 1981 General Assembly a bill to require detailed explanations for such dismissals. "Any responsible management system should be able to tell a professional who was hired in good faith why they are not being retained."
Most school board members strenuously opposed Speck's proposal, arguing that the policy change would invite lawsuits and would be difficult to enforce because judging teaching qualities is often a subjective matter.
"I think it would be a horrible mistake," board member Judy Feaver said after the meeting. "Each time an explanation is demanded it becomes harder and harder to weed out teachers who we think have done an adequate job, but not an excellent one. Written explanations mean more paper work and more documentation, which both add up to more litigation."
Officials of the Education Association of ALEXANDRIA (EAA) have been fighting for a plan similar to Speck's since the current probationary policy went into effect two years ago. Although school officials claim no major problems -- or lawsuits -- have ensued and only four probationary teachers were dismissed last year, teacher representatives say the probationary policy is one of the weakest areas in teacher-board relations and will be a major point of contention in upcoming contract discussions between school officials and teachers.
"It's a matter of teachers having no ground to stand on when their contracts are not renewed," said EEA president John Raiford. "If you don't know why you have not been rehired, then you cannot argue againist it."
The EEA represents about 665 of the city's 750 teachers.
Despite board objections, Speck said he still plans to introduce the proposal when the General Assembly opens in January.
"I don't see anything wrong with making a subjective decision about who is or isn't a good teacher," Speck said, "but we need to make a concomitant obligation to treat professionals with some professionalism. They deserve an explanation."
In other matters, the board asked the legislators to support extended day care in the schools and to oppose all-day kindergarten classes.