Nancy Fritz was in Topeka all weekend – along with hundreds of Kansas teachers – watching the final education bill unfold in the capitol. From the gallery she heard legislators utter some “unkind” words about teachers. But she was proud of how the teachers acted and how the moderate legislators from northeast Johnson County fought vainly to remove the policies from the bill that she says harm teachers.
Fritz is president of the Shawnee Mission NEA (National Education Association) unit. The big loss for Kansas teachers over the weekend was the provision that removes due process rights for tenured teachers. An impartial hearing officer has a final say over a contested teacher firing for teachers past the probationary period. With the change, the school board will have the final determination. Fritz spoke to the Shawnee Mission board on the issue last fall.
The due process hearing is not frequently employed, but the tenure provision has been valued by teachers. It has been a few years since there was a hearing in Shawnee Mission, Fritz said. “I am not worried about my district. Dr. Hinson (Shawnee Mission superintendent) has been very supportive of teachers,” Fritz said.
“We are there for students,” Fritz said. The due process protects teachers from an unfair judgment by an administrator, she said, when they are not getting along or have a personality conflict. In other situations “we help teachers make the right decision” or get guidance in the right direction.
While the Kansas NEA is still reviewing the bill and encouraging a veto, Fritz said they currently believe that once a teacher has earned tenure it stays with them, and that tenure and due process can still be negotiated into individual district teaching contracts. Shawnee Mission is in negotiating sessions this week.