Anyone work in an "at will" state?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by MissSfromNY, Jun 17, 2016.

  1. MissSfromNY

    MissSfromNY Rookie

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    Jun 17, 2016

    Hello! I've posted a few things here in the last week, just trying to get some stuff answered and discussed for myself!

    I'm interested in hearing experiences from those currently working as a teacher in an "at will" state. I am in NY where it has never happened and probably never will, but I can't find a job here so it doesn't really matter to me anyway! I am relocating to FL in the next year and I'd like to hear some experiences. I have read a mixture of opinions on other threads, usually just angry warning tangents in a thread not specific to being at- will. And they're usually pretty harsh, for the understandable reasons. Some say it's really not that serious unless you have academic issues with your school, or disciplinary problems. But is it as bad as they say? Skim these questions and if there are any that you can help with, please do.

    -For new teachers, do you think they always get rid of new teachers?
    -Are you left totally unsure if you still have a job every single year you teach?
    -What about those who have taught for a few years? Is every year really potentially your last with that school? When do they tell you by?
    -What do you do if you are not renewed?
    -On the flip side, has it not really been an issue to you?
    -Does it mostly only apply to bad teachers?

    I'd love to hear from FL residents but other states that do this too are welcome to chime in!

    It's truly a foreign concept to me, so any insight would be great so long as it's from people who have actually experienced this, no theorizing or guessing, please... Thanks so much!
     
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  3. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Jun 17, 2016

    I am not in an at-will state, but my school is. Our employee handbook explains this as, "“Employment with [school] is voluntarily entered into, and the employee is free to resign at will at any time, with or without cause. Similarly, [school] may terminate the employment relationship at will at any time, with or without notice or cause consistent with applicable federal and state laws.”

    As for your questions:
    -For new teachers, do you think they always get rid of new teachers? Absolutely not. The teachers are also 100% at-will, and the school spends a lot of time and money training new teachers. It would be a waste of resources to have built-in turnover.
    -Are you left totally unsure if you still have a job every single year you teach? Nope. If anything, I am asked each year if I plan to stay, and whether I wish to stay in my position or move to another. All requests to move around are taken into consideration by our Building Leadership Team (BLT), but it is dependent on projected student enrollment.
    -What about those who have taught for a few years? Is every year really potentially your last with that school? When do they tell you by? I've just completed my seventh year at my school. There is no such thing as tenure, but my experience is taken into account if I apply for a change in grade level or for a leadership position. I have seen teachers terminated, including a couple who were my friends. We do not get any official explanation and are simply told that said teacher is no longer employed by the school. Heck, that has happened with several very high-ranking members of the BLT during my time at my school.
    -What do you do if you are not renewed? Since we don't have contracts, there is nothing to renew. We simply expect to come back next school year unless one party or the other decides to sever the professional relationship. That being said, it is very rare for a teacher to be terminated without extensive attempts to bring the problematic behavior / pedagogy in line. Like I mentioned earlier, each new teacher requires extensive training, and it makes sense to do everything possible to retain the faculty and staff already hired by
    -On the flip side, has it not really been an issue to you? I'm perfectly happy being at-will. It is a little odd for me considering I grew up in a home with two active NEA members as parents, but I'm incredibly happy doing what I do and how I do it. It has been rough when another teacher on my team has quit mid-year (once, before the end of the semester) or has been terminated (in the one case that affected me, it was with cause that even I could see and the teacher left education completely). Fortunately, we have a good system of building substitutes who were able to cover the classes until permanent replacements were found.
    -Does it mostly only apply to bad teachers? I'm not sure what this means. Most teachers who have been terminated (not all) are first placed on an improvement plan, often more than once, in the hopes the professional relationship can be salvaged. "Bad" teachers may just be overwhelmed and undertrained, and there is a chance they can learn the ropes.
     
  4. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Jun 17, 2016

    I'm in an at will state. It hasn't really been an issue here. We are hired for a school year and I've never known of a teacher to be dismissed mid-year. Plenty of teachers have left mid-year though.
     
  5. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Jun 17, 2016

    I teach in Florida.

    For new teachers, do you think they always get rid of new teachers? i have never seen schools I have worked at in this state dismissed just because they were new. I have seen new teachers not renewed at the end of the year due to job performance.
    -Are you left totally unsure if you still have a job every single year you teach?This state has passed a law a few years ago that all teachers hired after July 1, 2011 would be offered one year contracts for the rest of their careers. I transferred from another district where I already had tenure. Lost tenure when I went to the new district. So, yes, you never know if you will have a job for the next year, but usually teachers are rehired unless there are performance issues.
    -What about those who have taught for a few years? Is every year really potentially your last with that school? When do they tell you by? See previous answer. It varies from district to district when they tell you if you will be retained. Some let you know as early as spring break, some don't tell you until the last minute of the last day of school.
    -What do you do if you are not renewed? You hope they give you a positive reference and pound the streets to find a new job.
    -On the flip side, has it not really been an issue to you?It has never been an issue for me and I have never given it much thought.
    -Does it mostly only apply to bad teachers? No
     
  6. jadorelafrance

    jadorelafrance Cohort

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    Jun 17, 2016

    As a non tenured employee, I'm essentially at-will for another year. I worry less about being non-renewed due to performance but more so for things out of my control (budget and declining school-wide enrollment). Due to my speciality, I really can't gain seniority even with tenure unless another teacher resigns/retires and that won't happen for a very long time. I worry year to year about the status of my position even though I know I am well liked and get great evaluations. Things can change dramatically year to year at this point.
     
  7. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    -For new teachers, do you think they always get rid of new teachers?
    This totally depends on the school. I definitely would advise against taking a position at any school that has tons of openings. Although I hope this is rare (it's certainly not been the case in the other 2 schools I've worked in), I did work in a school that does this. I found out that they had a history of non-renewing all or almost all new teachers going back for years. This was a turnaround district and the upper admins were trying to blame the teachers for the poor student performance. They would say that they were "working on fixing" the problem by getting rid of "ineffective" teachers. It was a way to make them look proactive. However, being in a union school wouldn't necessarily make a difference in this case. If you're probationary, you can be fired for any reason or no reason at all and the union can't really do anything for you, unless you're part of a protected class and you can prove the non-renewal was discriminatory. That's why it's so important to look at the number of openings the school has and make sure you're getting into a school that will be a good fit.

    -Are you left totally unsure if you still have a job every single year you teach?
    This hasn't been my experience, once I got out of that one bad school. I've been at my current school for three years and have always received positive evaluations and feedback from my admin, so I've never seriously worried about having a job the following year. My district always has at least some openings, so I don't really have to worry about being cut for budget reasons either.

    -What about those who have taught for a few years? Is every year really potentially your last with that school? When do they tell you by?
    Every district has their own date for this in my area. We do have "associations" (not as powerful as unions, and voluntary to join) in my area, and ours has negotiated a "non-probationary" status for teachers with 3 or more years of experience in the district. If you're non-probationary, you can't be cut due to budgets and you have to be given two years with supports (and documentation that you're not improving) in order to be fired. Other districts don't have any type of non-probationary status at all. We're lucky to have a good school board and they negotiate with our association. Since it's not required by law, school boards don't have to acknowledge them. In some nearby districts, the school boards won't recognize or negotiate with the association and they've pretty much disbanded them. That said, from what I hear I'm not sure how long real "tenure" will be around for anyone. My dad works in a pretty strong union state and his district no longer has tenure except for people that had already earned it.
    -What do you do if you are not renewed?
    In my area, it's hard to find another position if you're non renewed (not impossible, but hard). For that reason, if I felt there were signs I might be non-renewed, I would resign before being told so I wouldn't have to report it on my applications (resigning after being told doesn't help, since they ask if you've resigned in lieu of non-renewal).
    -On the flip side, has it not really been an issue to you?
    In the one bad school I worked in, it wouldn't have made a difference because I was a new teacher anyway. New teachers can be fired for no reason at union schools also.
    -Does it mostly only apply to bad teachers?
    IMO, no. Teaching is very subjective and I think it's easy for admins to see people they already like in a positive light when evaluating them while seeing lessons from people they butt heads with or dislike on a personal level in a negative light. You would like to think that only "bad" teachers are non-renewed, but unfortunately that just hasn't been my experience.

    It's truly a foreign concept to me, so any insight would be great so long as it's from people who have actually experienced this, no theorizing or guessing, please... Thanks so much![/QUOTE]
     
  8. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    I'm in at at-will school. It's no big deal for me. Just like any job, do an okay job, they'll keep you on. We've had a few teachers not asked to return at the end of the school year, but you have to be really, really bad to lose your job in the middle of the year.
     
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  9. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Texas is an at-will state with three types of contracts: probationary, continuing and term. When you're in your first three years, you're probationary, and it's relatively easy to release a teacher from a contract. We don't have to have a reason other than, "thanks, it's not a good fit."

    After the third year, most districts use a "continuing" contract, and it's rather difficult to get rid of a teacher at this point. We have to have a TON of evidence, and usually, it has to be over *a minimum* of a two year period. According to Texas law, to fire someone with a "continuing" contract we have to have "good cause" which is "defined as failure to meet the accepted standards of conduct for the profession as generally recognized and applied in similarly situated districts. The teacher has a right to request a hearing before an independent hearing officer. The local school board must be given notice of appeal within 10 days and the commissioner of education must be notified within 15 days. Releases may be allowed for necessary reduction of personnel, with those reductions primarily based on teacher appraisals. If the district has declared a financial exigency, the procedures applicable to an end-of-term discharge for a term contract can be used by the district."

    I don't know a lot of teachers who have passed year three who have actually been *fired*. I know lots of who have been made miserable and left on their own accord... That seems to be the more common practice. Thankfully, I don't work in a building that employs that philosophy...
     
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  10. Backroads

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    -For new teachers, do you think they always get rid of new teachers?

    No. Have yet to see anything across the board (in Utah) suggesting such.

    -Are you left totally unsure if you still have a job every single year you teach?

    Generally you know ahead of time if the school displeased with you. But by and large I say schools aren't trying to fire people.

    -What about those who have taught for a few years? Is every year really potentially your last with that school? When do they tell you by?

    It seems contracts go out 'round March or April. I suppose, yes, if one went technical, each year could possibly be your last, but in reality it doesn't work that way. A school rarely wants to thoroughly upheave all teachers.

    -What do you do if you are not renewed?

    Been there. I went into another field for a few years and later found myself teaching again.

    -On the flip side, has it not really been an issue to you?

    Non-renewal sucks, but frankly I can't imagine not being in a right-to-work state!

    -Does it mostly only apply to bad teachers?

    Yup.
     
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  11. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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  12. MissSfromNY

    MissSfromNY Rookie

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    Thanks so much. How I'd even still consider moving to FL after all I've read and heard during my own research must make me insane. :/ But honestly what kept me grounded enough to take it all with a grain of salt was just imagining someone asking to move to Long Island for teaching.... or living, for that matter. I just imagined all the complaining we all do here; jobs, expenses, massive immigration issues (probably not unlike Arizona), taxes, weather, real estate insanity, how broke the counties are, how sh*tty people seem to be, and how we generally classify it as "going downhill"... and I think wow I would DEFINITELY be one of those people only talking about why NOT to move here hah... so I get it. People want to make sure we know the down sides bc prospective movers do sometimes live in a fantasy land thinking vacation time is what real-life time would be like. I'm grounded enough to know that problems are problems everywhere. On my worst day in a new state I will probably want to move back home.. but on my worst day here I want to move there. So .. its all relative.

    Thanks for your advice on the "at will" situations. I seem to hear an equal amount of experiences from both camps... at will isn't that bad/ at will is a death sentence haha so... again.. it is all relative. I think I'd be more in line with what you and someone else said, which is that if I do what Im supposed to do, and don't unnecessarily come in there stirring everyone up, I should be ok. And If for some reason, something bad happens then there are likely to be other counties hiring anyway. As for funding, yet I think that NY is somewhat of a loner in how much expenditure is associated with a single student, especially one with a special need. FL in particular spends nearly only a tenth of what NY spends "per student". Yet, even with all the money NY claims to spend on its kids, I have still had no computers, no communication system, no shades for the windows, no Smart board, not enough desks, broken/no heat, doors that cant close, water leaks down the wall.... And this would be in a room for students with serious learning disabilities! So.. again... its all relative.

    I actually thought about Arizona. I don't mind that kind of environment, I am rather fascinated by the American southwest so I definitely considered it. Only reason I nixed it in the end was due to distance away from home and personal connection. FL is where half my family is ending up, some are already down there. I have a partner and had to take their wishes into consideration as well. So, FL it is.

    Thanks again for your help. I posted a thread about reciprocity for certifications as well, if you have any experience with that, feel free to post there. :)
     
  13. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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  14. mckbearcat48

    mckbearcat48 Cohort

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    In terms of firing new teachers, I have seen a couple lawsuits filed to that effect that have ended disastrously for the teacher. There was one large one close to me a few years ago that I followed closely, and the teacher's cause of action was defeated (RIF case). I think that in the era of performance-based reviews, it seems that everyone *should* have a legitimate shot to show how good they are.
     
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