Sixteen teachers won’t return to their classrooms in January after Tulsa Public Schools declined to renew or released them from their contracts ahead of winter break.
Friday was the final day for the affected teachers, whom district officials are working to replace before school resumes Jan. 6.
Twelve of those now without jobs were new teachers with emergency certification, while the other four were fully certified. Devin Fletcher, the district’s chief talent and learning officer, said they were let go for various reasons.
“The majority of them are performance-related exits, and then there are five of them that are related to testing,” Fletcher said.
Emergency-certified teachers are employed under temporary contracts, which have set termination dates, and receive individualized plans outlining the district’s expectations and deadlines for completing the education and testing requirements for regular or alternative certification in two years.
This school year, the district issued them one-semester contracts to better monitor their progress toward certification.
Failing one of the state’s three certification tests doesn’t necessarily result in a contract’s not being renewed, Fletcher said. Those decisions often are made when teachers don’t progress in completing the requirements.
Decisions to “exit” employees are taken extremely seriously, he said. The district would rather grow and develop teachers than release or terminate them, which he says is not in the best interest of students.
“Our ultimate goal is that we have high-quality educators in front of every one of our students, and for us, there’s no more difficult decision than having to release someone from their contract,” Fletcher said. “The human element of it is that we care for the people who work for us, and we want to see them grow and develop. But we also have a responsibility to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to have teachers who can guide our students each and every day to become successful.”
Fletcher said he’s confident that the empty classrooms will have new teachers at the start of next semester.
TPS spokeswoman Lauren Partain said the district has 154 active teaching applications and is in the process of hiring 16 individuals.
“We actively work to find replacements for any vacant positions to minimize the impact on teaching and learning in our classrooms,” Partain said. “Our focus is on supporting children and keeping them on track to graduate high school and achieve the greatest successes in college, careers and life.”