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Tenure

As a mother of four in Chesterfield County’s public schools and the daughter of an educator, I have watched with trepidation the inevitable proposed budget cuts for our school systems. Friends of mine, more tax-savvy than I, have for years voiced concern over our “bedroom community” tax base, but I never quite understood why. Now I do, but per usual, it’s taken the human side of a financial crisis to hit home with me. I am certainly worried about the generalities; larger class sizes and dropped offerings, but what’s really breaking my heart is the potential loss of some of the most talented teachers I know, based solely on seniority. 

At the beginning of each school year, when we parent excitedly share out teacher assignments with our friends in much the same manner as our children, some of us are confronted with “new” names. Unfamiliar names of new teachers normally raise eyebrows. But in our schools, I have learned to trust my administration’s carefully chosen new hires almost absolutely. Our schools generally have large numbers of applicants, and thus the people hired have proven themselves to be the cream of the crop. 

There are pros and cons to seniority, but I find no “pro” to losing the woman who, working tirelessly and without a perceptible ego alongside my child’s reading tutor, helped eradicate signs of her dyslexia. There is no “pro” to watching a new, passionate kindergarten teacher … given a difficult child that a more senior teacher struggled with, and subsequently transforming that child into a loving student … walk out our doors. And the salt in the wound for me is my personal knowledge that as these educational stars are let go, one tenured teacher in particular, with a file overflowing with parental complaints, will continue to provide children with a mediocre education. 

The vast majority of our tenured teachers are legendary and still valued. But I say, especially to those who can admit a waning passion for their profession, if you are of age and can feasibly afford retirement, please step aside rather than see your colleagues forced away. If you aren’t quite ready to throw in the towel, know you would be welcomed back with open arms in a volunteer capacity to mentor students and teachers alike. Many of us parents will be there in the schools volunteering assistance in whatever way we can. Join us! 

Not everyone is an Obama fan, but I don’t know too many people who disagree with the idea that we will all have to make sacrifices for the greater good at some point during these uncertain economic times. Maybe for some, in the twilight of their career, a graceful exit could be their destined contribution.

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