BROOKSVILLE – Spring Hill resident Tiffany Jansen knows what it’s like to worry.
A fifth-grade teacher at Eastside Elementary School in Brooksville, Jansen, 27, is about to get married in four weeks. But instead of focusing on her wedding, she’s job searching.
Jansen is one of 93 teachers on an annual contract – or those who have been with the district three years or less – in the Hernando County School District who has been “nonreappointed,” or told she does not have a job next year.
The only problem is, school officials couldn’t tell them why.
By Florida law, neither district officials nor administrators can comment or give rationale for their nonreappointment decisions, a move meant to deter lawsuits.
And it’s frustrating, Jansen said.
She said she has had positive evaluations for the past two years that she has been at Eastside and has no idea why she was issued a pink slip.
“It’s tough,” she said. “You go to work every day, you’re on time, you do your job, you’ve never gotten reprimanded or written up – and then you lose your job.”
Jansen initially obtained a letter on April 4 stating that she was being reappointed, but obtained another letter three weeks later stating the opposite.
Like many other teachers in similar situations, Jansen said she has been checking local employment Web sites daily for job openings. Nonreappointed teachers are free to apply for other jobs within the district, and many obtain jobs at other district schools.
Problem is, there aren’t any current elementary teaching positions open in Hernando County, and Jansen isn’t certified to teach Exceptional Student Education or middle and high school, she said.
Released to the public last Friday, the list of nonreappointed district employees totals 250. However, that number includes paraprofessionals, cafeteria aids and bus drivers, some of whose positions are being eliminated as part of the district’s three-year reduction plan.
Others are retiring, resigning or switching schools. Of the teachers, 18 are retiring and 24 are resigning, often meaning that they have plans to move elsewhere with their families.
Hernando Classroom Teachers Association president Joe Vitalo said that many of the teachers being non-reappointed have had excellent evaluations and test scores, and said there could be any number of reasons for the administrative decision.
“It could be for a variety of things,” he said. “It often comes down to a simple human decision of ‘Do I or do I not want this person?’ It leaves some hard questions to be answered about ‘why.’ And they’re not going to be answered (because of the) law.”
Due to the opening of Explorer K-8 in the fall, the new, 2,100-student school off Northcliffe Boulevard in Spring Hill, teachers at schools particularly affected by downsizing and rezoning – such as J.D. Floyd K-8 and Spring Hill Elementary School, both in Spring Hill – were encouraged to apply at Explorer K-8.
But not all were hired there. Some were left without jobs, and several have expressed outrage at the way the “pressured encouragement” to apply at Explorer was presented to them.
This year, union and district officials found new positions at other schools for 42 teachers who had been reappointed, but whose positions were being eliminated.
Vitalo said it was up to individual principals to grant teachers district reappointment status, even if they didn’t have enough openings at their school – a fact that may not have been understood by all principals.
“As far as we know, there was no directive from the district office to (release anyone),” he said. “There was a shifting in positions because there’s been a shifting of the student population.”
It also happens every year. In 2006, 132 annual teachers were released, and 82 in 2007.
Vitalo said many of the teachers not reappointed this year are currently applying for other jobs within the district or in Pasco County.
By fall, the district is expecting to fill about 100 teaching openings due to attrition and reallocation to different areas, such as added art and music teacher positions.
“Most of them have been going through the system, and some have already been offered jobs,” Vitalo said. “They’re being picked up really quick. A lot of schools want to fill their positions before school gets out for the summer.”
But he said he empathizes with the toughest question on job applications: The one asking if the applicant has ever been released from a job.
“It’s kind of tough to answer that question when you don’t know why,” Vitalo said.
Hernando High School:
Brooksville Elementary School:
Westside Elementary School:
Eastside Elementary School:
Springstead High School:
Spring Hill Elementary School:
Powell Middle School:
J.D. Floyd K-8:
Parrott Middle School:
Central High School:
Pine Grove Elementary School:
West Hernando Middle School:
Moton Elementary School:
Suncoast Elementary School:
Nature Coast Technical
Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics:
Reporter Linnea Brown can be reached at 352-544-5289 or [email protected]