IB-2005-D (September 2005)
Author: Ben DeGrow
The three-year probationary period for teachers is enshrined in Colorado Revised Statutes and serves to make sure teachers who are unable to fulfill professional qualifications can be removed before they receive their tenure rights. However, Colorado’s largest school district—Jefferson County R-1 (Jeffco)—has a negotiated policy that nullifies the purpose of the probationary period:
- Jeffco is the only school district in the state to have negotiated a provision with the teachers union that guarantees a probationary instructor the right to file a grievance if her contract is not renewed.
- The terms and conditions of the grievance process are outlined in Jeffco’s negotiated agreement, allowing teachers to appeal their claims to an arbitrator, a process which may cost the district thousands of dollars in legal fees.
- In a 2004 grievance case, the district conceded to overrule a Jeffco principal’s recommendation to non-renew a probationary teacher who was cited for repeated unprofessional behavior, when key witnesses did not come to testify against her.
- Of 326 probationary teachers Jeffco hired for 2004-05, seven resigned and four others did not have their contracts renewed. While none of the four non-renewals filed a grievance, one teacher negotiated for and received “a neutral letter of recommendation.”
- Recently developed procedures in Jeffco requiring documentation of evaluations and reprimands of newer teachers, if properly applied by a principal, may help to prevent some potential grievances of non-renewals, but certainly do not alleviate the problem.
Rather than standing out as a district so heavily weighted toward protecting ineffective educators at the expense of students in the classroom, Jeffco should make repeal of the contract provision guaranteeing grievance rights to probationary teachers a non-negotiable item for its next bargaining session.