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Will Tenure Get Tenured?

Bronx Classroom Tales

WillAt a staff meeting last week, the school secretary went around getting signatures for pay-stubs - fairly standard practice. However when she got to me she had a little something extra… tenure. 


“Sorry, you were supposed to get this last year. We forgot,” she tells me, and I sign for last year’s end-of-year-evaluation. On the front page, a series of S’s, which shows I satisfactorily met standards in all categories and then on the back sheet, a stamped signature from the superintendent stating, “Recommended for Completion of Probation” or something to that effect.


~ “Wait a minute. Does this mean I’m tenured?” I asked her.

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~ “Um. Yeah.”

~ I turn to my boss and ask her if she knew about this. 

~ “Yeah. If you get S’s for three years in a row, you’re tenured. That’s it.”

I take a minute to reflect on this fairly important stage in my career which has just arrived nearly a year late, feeling a bit indignant about having missed a happy hour in my honor. “Well now that I know, you’re going to see some changes from me,” I joke. My boss forgets again, this time to laugh. 


Teacher Tenure in NYC

Being tenured in New York City does not mean that you can never lose your job but it makes it a whole lot harder to. And it only takes three years to get.  


Recently a visit from the superintendent signaled that those third year teachers in the building would be given approval or held back. If for some reason, she does not think you should be in the classroom, she can not only withhold tenure, but she can take away your probationary status completely, making it impossible to work in New York City public schools in the future. In other words, it’s a big deal when she comes to see you and your file. 


After she left, the word in the teacher’s lounge was that some did not get tenured – would be gone next year - and some were getting an extra year of probation to solidify their craft. I couldn’t help think that this is tied to the city’s growing battle to break down the union and prevent mediocre teachers from attaining “job security.” 


To Tenure or Not to Tenure?

The teacher at my school with the most years under her belt recently asked me, with this issue of tenure in air, if given the choice, would I go to a surgeon who had just graduated med school or to one who had been performing the operation for a decade. I got her point. 


In the same breathe, those decade-plus teachers, just as I suppose those decade-plus doctors, earn nearly double what their new counterparts earn and with budget cuts guaranteed this year, the city might be regretting indiscriminately passing out tenure in the past.


Members of the New York State Congress have proposed a bill that would allow schools to select which teachers to let go in the case of a budget cut instead of strictly relying on seniority. This calls into question the value of tenure entirely. This may not bother someone like me, seeing as I just found out I had it. However, others who have been in the system longer and have always seen tenure as a guaranteed salary surely will be outraged if this bill gets through.


It seems to me that if you are good, you are good, whether you’ve been teaching 10 months or ten years and any school will be happy to have you because in the end, it’s about teachers successfully teaching. 


If you can’t say that about yourself, I’m not sure you deserve a longtime position. 


Yes, we have a difficult job but that doesn’t mean that just because we “passed” for three years that we’ll do an outstanding job for life. That goes for me as well. I often take for granted what the union does for me as a member, but as a younger teacher, I’m not getting my hopes up that it will always have my back.

Where do you stand in the tenure debate? Share in the comments section!

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