Bruno: Why I May Not Keep My Teaching Position
As you may or may not recall, last summer my family moved from the Bay Area to Southern California and I was fortunate enough to find a new job teaching science in a district middle school that I began in August. It turns out, however, that that job may be short-lived.
Last week I received a letter from human resources informing me that I cannot count on having a job for the 2013-2014 school year. Though the details may vary somewhat from district to district, the general reason for this job insecurity will be familiar to many teachers.
As my letter from HR helpfully explains, districts are often unable to predict with certainty exactly how many teaching positions they will have to fill in the following school year. Some teachers may retire or resign, but positions may also be cut for various reasons and in that event teachers with more seniority in the district can have "first pick" of the positions that remain. (My previous tenure in the Oakland Unified School District grants me no job security here.)
Such seniority-based dismissal decisions have their justifications. They certainly provide a relatively objective criterion by which staffing decisions can be made and it is entirely possible that this reduces other sorts of unfair or inefficient bias. Discrimination on the basis of age, gender, and other characteristics are undoubtedly real problems.
Still, the upshot for me is that at least for the time being I am back on the job market with my principal's sympathies. This, in turn, means that even if the district is eventually able to offer me a job for the next school year, I may no longer be available to take it.
Indeed, the uncertainty and convoluted calendars usually associated with school hiring mean that it is entirely possible I will leave the teaching profession altogether. This isn't just a problem for me and I don't think I'm so exceptional that our institutions should be arranged to my convenience. It is, however, a new teacher retention problem for the whole system.
It is conceivable that these problems could be ameliorated even in a system that heavily rewards seniority - say, with higher starting salaries - but I don't sense much urgency on this issue from people on either "side" of the reform debates.