This year, at least, they didn’t do it on National Teacher Appreciation Week.
DCPS announced late Friday afternoon that it has sent annual “excess notices” to 333 teachers. It means that changes in budget, enrollment or academic programs at their schools have effectively eliminated their jobs. The excessed educators have until August 15 to find other spots in the school system. School officials said they expect at least 60 percent to be retained.
Last year 384 teachers were excessed; in 2010, 373.
“It’s never easy to hear that you will not be able to continue in your current position for next school year,” Chancellor Henderson said in a statement. “But the excessing process is essential as it helps us ensure that all of our staff are located where they are needed for the coming school year.”
Like most government agencies, DCPS tries to drop unpleasant news late on Friday, to minimize news coverage. As in 2011, it chose the first Friday in May to swing the excessing axe. This year, however, Teacher Appreciation Week doesn’t begin until Monday.
Excessing changed in the Michelle Rhee era. Prior to 2010, it was done by seniority, and teachers who lost positions were guaranteed other jobs. It meant that in some cases principals were stuck with teachers they didn’t want. But the 2010 collective bargaining agreement negotiated by Rhee introduced “mutual consent,” meaning that principals have to be on board with any addition of excessed teachers to their staff. Excessing became “performance-based,” using a mix of evaluations, unique skills and contributions to the school community. Seniority is still in the formula, but only at the margins.
“This is a new work environment for these teachers,” said Washington Teachers’ Union president Nathan Saunders. “My challenge is to mitigate the damage and I’m attempting to do that.”
Under the contract, excessed employees with good evaluations who don’t find spots have three options: a $25,000 buyout; a “grace year,” during which they will be placed at a DCPS school, or with 20 years service, early retirement at full benefits.
Interestingly, Friday’s announcement didn’t mention that third option, which has been the subject of some contention between DCPS and WTU. DCPS initially said last year that the money wasn’t available, despite a retirement fund so flush that there was no actuarial need for annual contributions in 2010. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi’s office said that was nonsense. His spokesman said DCPS never submitted the necessary legislation to the D.C. Council to have the provision funded through the D.C. Retirement Board.
Saunders said the early retirement issue has been worked out and the option will be available.