The right to fire teachers

I do not have a researched position on the recent ruling striking down teacher tenure as unconstitutional. But I can say that this ruling, if upheld, will spare local school districts the protracted and costly rigmarole Lincoln Unfied went through in the case of this woman …

 

…Heidi Kaeslin. Kaeslin was a Lincoln Unified special-education teacher. In 2011, school officials became suspicious she was using a school computer to run pornographic websites.

I’m quoting liberally from one of my columns now.

After months of investigation, they concluded Kaeslin was guilty of “numerous acts of immoral and unprofessional conduct, violations of rules and repeated dishonesty.”

They allege she dabbled in four porno websites using a school computer; she or her friends took “Girls Gone Wild”-type topless photos out on the Delta; and she lied when questioned.

On top of that, the scandal – which included an extramarital affair with a school resource officer – went viral. The school district got international egg on its face.

This does not mean Keislin was a bad person. But she used remarkably bad judgment. In the private sector, she would have been fired by express.

But school officials couldn’t fire Kaeslin. The Education Code says it must first take 45 days to correct any unprofessional conduct. Or 90 days to correct unsatisfactory performance.

Kaeslin was put on leave for months. Paid leave.

Having duly slogged through the steps, Lincoln Unified trustees voted unanimously to fire Kaeslin. That was just the beginning.

Taking advantage of her rights under the Education Code, Kaeslin appealed her firing. The district had to empanel a “commission on professional competence.”

An administrative law judge heads this three-person panel. An educator selected (and paid for) by the school board and another selected by Kaeslin fill the other seats.

The hearing ground on for over a year. The cost to the school district – to taxpayers – was $150,000 to $300,000.

Ridiculous. And now, possibly, a thing of the past.

 

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  • Blog Author

    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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