Not Getting Tenure, Not Getting Answers, and I'm Angry
February 13, 2018 2:54 AM   Subscribe

This was me. The principal marked my card that I would not be offered professional status at the school because "it's not a good fit." I really want someone to tell me why, but all I'm getting are bogus non-answers.

I know all I can do is keep my head up and start looking for a job elsewhere, which I'm doing, but I think I'm alternating in the grief stages between anger and acceptance.

Mostly angry because I have years of exemplary reviews and lead teacher training and I really have no idea why this decision has been made. I've spoken to the union and they say the admins don't need to give any reason to deny tenure. It could be that I'm an expensive teacher (10 years + 1 doctorate puts me at the top of the payscale) or that somewhere along the line, I've pissed somebody off. But I haven't pissed anyone off as far as I know. The union says I have zero recourse for this and should be happy they've marked my card so early in the year.

This is the first time I've not been rehired from a district and I really want to know why, because I'm finding "it's not a good fit" useless as a performance tip.

I don't know if it's relevant but suspect it is: the school has had a revolving door of admins in the past few years--the principal and special ed director who made this decision are not the ones who hired me.

Those of you with experience in public schools and this sort of thing, do I have any hope of getting an honest answer from this district? How? Also, how am I supposed to get through the rest of this year knowing they don't value my work?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes to Work & Money (9 answers total)
I'm finding "it's not a good fit" useless as a performance tip.

I'd say that's because it is not a performance tip. It's not meant to be helpful. It is an evasion. I don't think people can perform their way into whatever a good fit means. Especially if the good fit is one of these three things:

* having pissed someone off without realizing it (what's done is done)
* not being the new principal and sped director's pick; they want their people, friend, owe a favor, whatever (you can't perform your way into becoming someone else)
* being expensive (you can't perform your way out of having that advanced degree)

And, they will never ever admit to any of those things. Based on anecdotes, I'd say that third one is pretty likely. As to how to get through the rest of the year, facing a similar decision in a totally different teaching environment I found it pretty liberating. I mean what else are they going to do? I could forget all the administrative bs and politics and just have a good few months with those students. Good luck on the next place.
posted by Gotanda at 4:42 AM on February 13, 2018 [24 favorites]

"Not a good fit" is usually code for something that has little or nothing to do with performance. They want to hire someone cheap, you said no to something and they're annoyed, they have a buddy looking for a job, they have illegal reasons for firing you and want to hide behind "fit," it doesn't matter. You don't really want to know why, because the answer will be something annoying that you can't change.

On preview: Everything Gotanda said.
posted by xyzzy at 4:47 AM on February 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Gotanda is right. "Not a good fit" is business legalese for "Someone here doesn't like you" or "You're too good" or "Your politics don't match ours" or any of a bajillion other personal reasons they don't want you. But, they can't be specific because that would invite a discrimination lawsuit. This tactic is ages old.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:49 AM on February 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

They will not give you an answer. Even if you had a close ally who wanted to, their lawyers are strenuously warning them against it. In my district it would have been a firing offense for someone in HR to be specific in this situation because it opens the district to so much liability, and your evaluators and principal would be looking at a demotion. If the union thinks there's nothing to be done, there's probably nothing to be done.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:11 AM on February 13, 2018 [8 favorites]

I don't necessarily agree it's personal. It may be, but education is so different from other settings. How expensive you are can be a huge consideration in the education world.

And sometimes it is personal, but it's also valid. But the bottom line is, no one is going to tell you. For them, it's big risk with no reward. There's literally no advantage for them, but a lot to lose.

But! Being told this early is a huge gift. It means you can apply during the typical application time instead of dealing with all the leftover positions they couldn't fill in round one.

Do not burn bridges though. Keep your head down and continue to follow policy. The local education world is small, and your reputation follows you.
posted by Aranquis at 5:25 AM on February 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

The only way to fight it is to lawyer up and get help from the union, if the union has any strength.
posted by theora55 at 6:21 AM on February 13, 2018

but I think I'm alternating in the grief stages between anger and acceptance .... because I'm finding "it's not a good fit" useless as a performance tip.

Sounds to me you are actually in the 'negotiation' stage - you are trying to figure out how this is a performance tip, because that means there is something under your personal control that you could have done differently in order to not get this result. It's totally natural to want that, but 'acceptance' here may well mean recognizing it just wasn't the case.
posted by solotoro at 8:02 AM on February 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

It could very well be financial, and they will never tell you that. A friend who is a longtime teacher was fired for the most ridiculous trumped up reason, while another teacher who had broken a very serious safety rule stayed employed. The union was useless but in that state they tend to be. This happened almost immediately after she finished her phd, thus driving her pay up substantially. I’m so sorry, your frustration is warranted.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 10:33 AM on February 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I will agree it is most probably what previous posters have written-- some personal reason the administration has that is not work related, compounded by your advanced degree and age. They just want you gone, and will never tell you the real reason why.

It happened to me at the school where I student taught and everyone was sure I was going to be hired-- until the principal hired a friend of his without a teaching degree after having the district advertise the job opening only for the three day span when I was busy coaching the robotics team at an away tournament that took up all of my time. I definitely feel your pain, and more importantly your anger.

I can only commiserate with you, unless you want to come out to the beautiful Pacific Northwest where we always need SPED teachers and have good unions and good starting wages, in which case I can offer some introductions and advice.

Best of luck to you, and I hope those jerks that did this to you get a painful and humiliating flesh-eating disease.
posted by seasparrow at 10:34 AM on February 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

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