Amphitheater ISD to propose firing hundreds of teachers

You would have had to have been living in a cave this past year to not know that Arizona’s budget is a mess, but hundreds of teachers in the Amphitheater School District are going to hear tonight just how dire the situation is, according to a memo sent out from the district’s teachers’ union.

That memo, sent to me anonymously, says that district officials are recommending firing all employees – except administrators – who were hired by Amphi in 2005 or later, as a preemptive step to deal with anticipated budget cuts that will be required if a proposed 1-cent sales tax increase does not meet with voter approval in May.

I have confirmed through various Amphi union members that this memo came directly from the leadership of the Amphitheater Education Association. Apparently, the union’s negotiation team was unable to sign off on a salaries and benefits package for the teachers for next year during their annual “Meet and Confer” process. This memo is a report to union members about what the next step is.

According to state law, the district has to notify potentially laid off employees by April 15 (more good news on tax day!). Ergo, according to the memo, these firings will be approved – or not – at tonight’s Governing Board meeting.

It is listed as the second item on the Board agenda for the open part of the meeting as: Review of 2010-2011 Budget Development – Approval of Required and Contingency Budget Cuts for SY 2010-2011. However, that item is labeled with a superscript of “2” and listed under a heading of “Information.” According to the agenda notes, the superscript means no action will be taken, yet the listing clearly says “Approval of Required and Contingency Budget Cuts,” so I’m not sure how “approval of” jives exactly with “no action will be taken” or with the information from the union.

Here’s a clip from the union memo:

Although, the association acknowledged the need to make drastic cuts to the budget, we were unwilling to agree to a package that placed so much of the burden of the budget cuts needed on the shoulders of the employees. The administration understands our position but will move ahead on making salary and staffing decisions. What we know so far is that the administration will be presenting a salary package to the Governing Board on Tuesday night as well as recommending pink slip notifications for any employee hired in 2005 or later. This will impact approximately 300 fellow employees whether they are Short term, Probationary or continuing teachers.

The memo explains that the reason the district has to notify these employees is so they will be prepared in case Proposition 100 – the sales tax proposal – fails. If the 1-cent sales tax increase passes, then “many of these employees may be hired back,” according to the memo. Contracts aren’t issued until May 15, so the union is apparently going to ask the board to hold off voting on a salary package until April 27 board meeting. From the memo:

By waiting, the district will have time to take into consider any additional resignations or retirements that may result in the announcement of such a devastating package and measure the impact they will make in further reducing the operating budget.

The memo ended encouraging all Amphi employees to aim their anger at the state Legislature, which might be good advice. According to this post at the Campus Correspondent blog, former state senator Tim Bee – who now works directly for the governor – recently said the number one thing people are calling Legislators to complain about is (drum roll) the closure of highway rest stops. They are not calling about the closure of schools or the firings of hundreds of teachers. C’mon, people! Maybe you don’t have kids in schools, maybe you think having another 300 people unemployed in Tucson is a good thing, maybe you are just thinking, to heck with it all – I can’t take it anymore!

But you have to slap yourself across the face and get a grip. Yes, a sales tax increase sucks. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch. We have to pay for what we want in this society and believe me, we want – need – good schools. And we especially want/need people to stay employed; there’s enough competition out here in laid-off land as it is.

If you’ve got an opinion about all this, the board meeting begins at 6 p.m. tonight in the board room at 701 W. Wetmore. There is a brief opening ceremony and then time for public comment – which, considering this news of potential pink-slipping this week, might be significant. Then the board will adjourn to what my former editor used to call “secret session” but which is actually called Executive Session. The open part of the meeting will reconvene at 7 p.m. with the discussion of budget cuts. And, call your Legislators.


19 thoughts on “Amphitheater ISD to propose firing hundreds of teachers

  1. So if a crappy teacher was hired in 2004 and persists in the district because of union protections and lackadaisical administrators, and a really good teacher was hired in 2006, the good teacher gets laid off and the crappy one gets to keep her job?
    Lay off the poor teachers, keep the good ones irrespective of when they were hired.

  2. I agree — it should be more merit based. Now I’m trying to figure out why my mugshot is w/ your reply …

  3. Do not be scared into a 1% sales tax with this big union, big education lobbyist propaganda. The fact is there were proposals in the last budget session to lower the sales tax but remove the some 500 exemptions to the sales tax, thereby broadening the base and  increasing overall state revenue beyond this 1% sales tax.For instance in construction,  a certain size of pipe has a sales tax yet other sizes of pipe do not. What? Guess which size size isn’t taxed? The one most used in construction. There are hundreeds of other examples. State representatives, Matt Heinz and Daniel Patterson and Stae Senator Linda Lopez agreed with this legislation but only if teacher tenure was protected. Again, democrats obstructing sensible fiscal policy with protectionist legislation to their biggest campaign donors.
    Teacher tenure needs to go away. The principals of the schools need the ability to hire and fire at will like every other organization in Arizona. Give this power back to aprincipal and our schools will improve. After all, a substitute has no union protection and they are hired and fired at will and they teach upwards of 30% of the classes statewide on a daily basis.
    Do not in anyway believe this tax will be sunsetted. Ask that of the people of Johnstown, Pennsylvania that agreed to a 10% sales tax on alcohol to alleviate the damage of a flood in 1936. Today, that temporary tax is now 18%.  My grandfather had a saying “Never give money to politicians or clerics, it only encourages them.”

    1. Teacher tenure serves many valuable functions.  For one, it helps prevent the administration from firing more experienced teachers in an effort to balance the budget.  Another is that it guarantees a degree of academic freedom, preventing administrators and school board types from firing a teacher for non performance-related issues.  I can’t say that I am familiar with the specific policies in Tucson’s school districts, but tenure is not a blanket guarantee against firing.  A teacher with tenure can still be let go, but not for the purposes of cronyism, an unpopular philosophy, or because he/she has become expensive.   

    2. Just so you know, tenure has gone away in Arizona.  A bill passed last November essentially removed seniority and with that the benefits of tenure.
      I’m not all that big on the unions but I will say in a profession that pays extremely low and demands a great deal, this was one benefit teachers had.  They had more job security.  I don’t see the government telling corporations that they can not honor seniority in their hiring and firing processes.  Other government agencies such as the post office have seniority.  Why not teachers?

  4. The principals of the schools need the ability to hire and fire at will like every other organization in Arizona So, you are in favor of creating a special class that is above the budget cuts and above being removed at will? If you read the article you will see only teachers are subject to being let go. I guess districts are trying to follow a business model where the bosses stay no matter how bad things get but the workers have to go. Sounds good.

  5. A school based, not district based, board of regents elected by the parents should be the final arbiter of the hiring and firing of the principal. If I had my way, no school district in the country would exist as it does today. They are a bloated parasite on our taxes. Our technology would allow the school itself to manage the “resources” that the overindulged districts manage now.

  6. Blaming unions when we’re talking about Amphi is a joke. The leadership does not stand up for teachers nearly as much as it should, and as a result, membership is low. Since membership is low, it undermines the union even more. Anyone who blames unions in the case of Amphi has absolutely no clue about how this district operates.

  7. we don’t need more taxes. Its the state’s fault for pissing all the money away. We had surplus not too long ago, what happened to that!! We shouldn’t have to give more of our money to a governemnt who is reckless with our money. I think the government should learn from its mistake of overspending. Its a painful lesson but I think its one that needs to be learned in order to prevent this from happening again.

    1. It’s a painful lesson that our children have to pay!  We have our education, are we really ready to sacrifice our children to make a point?  You can make your point when our elected officials go up for re-election.

  8. It cracks me up how people talk about getting rid of “tenure” so that all of the crappy teachers can be fired. Teachers get fired (or not fired) just like anybody else. The “tenure” everybody is talking about does not allow a totally incompetent person to remain in their job. Teachers are evaluated on performance and hired and fired accordingly. “Tenure” makes it a little more difficult to fire a teacher, but believe me, it is not impossible.
    In fact, I would have to say that teachers are evaluated and fired more often than most of the people I encounter daily. Honestly. I am in businesses interacting with less than stellar employees everyday. A lot of those employees make more money than a teacher in this state. Why are they still around? I also know people in this city who work for corporations, make more than 100K a year, and are completely incompetent. Everyone in their job knows they are incompetent and yet, they aren’t fired because they pretty much “have tenure.” It’s not called that, of course. It’s called “avoiding litigation” for the express purpose of keeping a company’s legal expenses down. Honestly, Donald Trump is the only person who can fire people at will, and only because he has the ability to then turn around and write the fired employee a check in an out-of-court settlement.
    Anyway, my point is, get off the tenure thing. It’s ridiculous. There are people in every profession who are mediocre and keep their jobs. There are people in every profession who are even really crappy, and they too keep their jobs. So, to be fair let’s insist that ALL people who are at or below mediocrity get fired from ALL forms of employment. Oh but, that would be at least 75% of the population though, right?
    Hmm…But maybe that’s better for our society. Because really I could use less headaches, less encounters with the mediocre. And, since we are now competing in a global economy, a global economy which includes countries that actually care about and are educating their children to compete in free market, I am sure those countries would be willing to send some of their kids over to snap up all of those jobs.  It’s a great plan for our future.

    1. So because everyone else is crappy, the teacher has a right to be crappy. You sat a desk tha was in a pod with other desk sin school, didn’t you? Group think. If everyone else is saying , doing, performing that way, it’s ok for me to do the same.
      Just like the child who says, he did it too!! Grow up. we are talking about saving education in our community, the muddied thinking that you are putting out there doesn’t solve the problem. Giving the principal the power tio hire and fire, getting rid of bloated district management, parent  ( taxpayer) empowerment will solve this problem. Not whining and crying about how everyone sucks too.
      Grow Up!

      1. Dear Jim – Welcome to God Blogging – since you’re new here, I need to catch you up on the rules of the sandbox. While the other blogs on allow anyone to say anything, I like everyone to play nice here. That means, no namecalling, refraining from yelling at people (Grow up!) and using polite language. Thanks for visiting and engaging and thanks in advance for using your polite-company voice and vocabulary.

    2. Dear JP – The reason tenure is a little more questionable in teaching is that in other jobs – say, McDonalds or Raytheon – you aren’t resonsible for educating students. Teaching is a really important job and only those who do it well and effectively should be doing it. Everyone at every school knows who the really ineffective teachers are and everyone knows they should be let go, but frequently, they aren’t. I may not care if there is a lazy engineer at Raytheon, but I do care if there’s a lazy 3rd grade teacher. Teaching is the profession upon which everything else depends (You have your job b/c you can read and think and a teacher taught you that) so we need the best in there doing it.

      1. Since we all seem to agree that teaching is a very honorable and valuable profession, why is it that teachers are so poorly paid? 

  9. Jim,
    This is a “right to work” state, and the teachers’ union is virtually powerless.  I taught in San Diego where tenure was a real issue, where an incompetent teacher was rarely fired because administration had to invest 2 years plus in documenting incompetency, and where, often, an incompetent teacher was merely re-assigned to another school.  This isn’t the issue here in Arizona.

    You sound very angry.  No one said that teachers have the right to be crappy.  The letter you responded to should have mentioned that where incompetency reigns and cannot be, easily, rooted out is in government work.  I was a teacher; my husband worked for the Navy.  We both saw incompetence, but, trust me, his recourse to dealing with incompetent employees was even more toothless than my school’s.

    Teachers choose their profession, mainly, because they are idealistic, service-oriented souls.  They don’t expect to make big bucks.  They hope to make a difference.  And, if they’re successful (ie, their students succeed) that’s the pay-off they want.  Depending on their subject matter, (I was a high-school English teacher) and their professional and ethical committment, they may work 10 to 12 hour days; they combine lesson-planning, teaching, parent phone-calls, counseling, volunteer work (at proms, athletic events, PTA meetings, etc) with their job description: teaching the state approved curriculum, providing a physically and emotionally safe environment for students, planning varied lesson plans to address all levels of learning, providing varied evaluation (testing) devices that address various learning styles and skills, planning lessons that engage all levels of learners, role-modeling social interactive skills, actively engaging 160-200 students on a daily basis, and answering to the public (accountability) because everyone (even ineffective, let alone abusive, parents) really knows how teaching should be done.  I loved my work.  I loved my inner-city students.  I am not the exception.  There were some crappy teachers.  The union protected them.  Not the case here in Arizona.

    If you want to change the educational system, why not look into where the education money goes?  Why not examine how the state decides to spend its money?  There are always too many high-paid administrators.  There are grading/attendance computer programs that are ineffective but highly expensive.  There are physical facilities on site that are not necessary and hardly used.  And, yes, there are some teachers who are ineffective and over-paid.  But not many here in Arizona, and I would never defend that incompetence.  

    The “perks” teachers receive are laughable.  I had a better (and MUCH cheaper) health insurance plan when I dealt blackjack in Reno.  As a teacher, I bought copy paper and had very limited access to the copier.  I spent freely for supplies for projects.  Elementary teachers, I know, spent much more.   McDonalds’ employees had better working conditions and a more polite public.  Do you want to really make a change?  Please become a teacher and see what the profession is all about.  Then your comments will have more credence.

    Vote “yes” on Proposition 100 for the sales tax.  I know it’s a stretch because we’ve all seen how this state mismanages money, but if you believe that children are our future, please don’t further cripple a profession that needs support and certainly deserves respect.   

    1. Annie, join us! Prop 100 WILL NOT solve educations problems! Lower the sales tax broaden the base. Remove the exemptions. Prop 100 is an extremely regressive tax that burdens the further burdens the poor. The poorest districts already pay a disproportionate amount in per capita tax for return of services. NO, No, No, NO!

  10. Thanks for the heads up, I’ll try to be nicer, as difficult as it is for me. I am an ill tempered drunk that has been sober only 3 years so old habits die hard. Now to the issue. It is about leadership and management. Until the principal, elected by a board of regents made up of parents and teachers of that particular school has the ability to truly manage his resources, there will always be way to many other “interested” parties sticking their fingers in the budgetary pie. ( Vendors?, Unions?).

    The teachers pay, performance, benefits will be competitive when it is the schools that are competing for the best. Teacher proficiency and teacher behavior will be based upon that one school, not a system of “protection” district wide or state wide.

    What irritates me is every time this budget crisis pops up ( every single year), two things happen, the left says “it’s for the kids” and “teachers are our childrens future”. Both are distortions of fact and transparent propaganda. It’s about money.

    The taxpayers are tired of paying for other parents problem children, they are tired of throwing money at “the problem” and the problem always being declared “not enough money”.

    So Renee, as admirable and well meaning you are in declaring your support of teachers, the fact is their behavior will not change until they can be fired, immediately by the leader the parents elected.
    No one is listening anymore to the “ode to the teacher” or “the children are our future”, because it isn’t true. We are only birthing 1.8 children per coupling and that is not enough to sutatin population. Why do you think our childrens adolescence is being extended further and further out. Obamacare to age 26! In Arizona you can  attend high school to age 22! Enrollemnt is declining, so should the amount of money we are spending , but nope, the bloated districts want more.

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