"No Way" to San Jose

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A district and teachers union work together to find sensible solutions to vexing problems: A no-brainer, right? No. Not according to the majority of the California State Board of Education. Last week the a majority of State Board of Ed members in Sacramento denied a joint request from the San Jose Unified School District and the union that represents their teachers, the San Jose Teachers Association, to extend the pre-tenure period from two to three years for a select group of teachers.

The district and union requested the waiver for two second-year teachers identified by a joint panel of teachers and administrators; the panel wasn't ready to give them tenure (called “permanent status” in California), but they were not ready to fire them either. After hearing concerns from the State Board in March that a three-year process would become routine for the district, San Jose stipulated that only teachers identified by the joint district-union panel would be considered for a third probationary year. The State Department of Education and the California State Teachers Association (going against their local chapter in San Jose) argued that it is the Legislature’s job to change personnel statutes.

It’s too bad that, even in Silicon Valley, home to some of the most innovative minds in the land, attempts to be innovative by school districts and unions fall victim to a state government that is stuck in the status quo.

Jennifer Thomas, president of the San Jose Teachers Association, says she plans to try to find a legislator to author a bill that would allow for the approach outlined in their waiver petition. She may not have to if the plaintiffs in Vergara v. California get their way. They’ve asked the court to declare California’s short probationary period unconstitutional. A ruling is expected in the coming months.