Some teachers in Schenectady got good news and bad news this month: They were awarded tenure, but they also got pink slips.
The Schenectady City School District is laying off teachers to balance its 2013-14 budget. The newest teachers go first, which means the district is sending away teachers it has just spent three to four years training and mentoring. Thirteen teachers were tenured and laid off.
The school board held its normal celebration with the tenured teachers anyway, offering them cake and praise even though their layoff slips had already been delivered.
School board President Cathy Lewis called the layoffs “traumatic.”
Superintendent Laurence Spring added that the district didn’t simply give them tenure because they’d been in the district long enough.
“The folks that have gotten tenure have truly distinguished themselves,” he said. “They have a high level of competence and expertise.”
But it wasn’t enough to fend off a pink slip.
Sixth-grade teacher Chris Adamek, who celebrated his tenure after getting his layoff notice, said he understood why the district has to do without him.
“I’m also a property owner in the city,” he said. “Me being a young homeowner, I don’t know that I could support much more in taxes.”
But it still came as a blow.
“At first I was frustrated. You work so hard for the students,” he said.
And he wanted to stay in Schenectady’s schools.
“I grew up in Schenectady. I love it here,” he said.
Now he’s applying to every nearby school district. He wants to find a job as a teacher, he said.
“Every day is different. There is never the same situation twice. I love it because it makes me be totally committed to the job,” he said. “I can’t be on cruise control ever.”
He teaches at King Magnet School, where his students are currently learning about earthquakes and other catastrophic events. Currently, he has them pretending to be engineers working for the city of San Francisco. They have to recommend to the city the way to make the most earthquake-safe buildings, focusing on design and material.
“It’s a unit where they have math, science, reading and writing,” he said. “The kids love it.”
Next year, he hopes to be teaching that unit somewhere. His tenure in Schenectady does not automatically transfer to another school district, should he be hired by another district.
The layoff notice didn’t surprise another teacher up for tenure. Stephanie Grattan, who teaches 10th-grade Social Studies, said she’s gotten a layoff notice every year. But retirements and other cuts have saved her job each time.
She doesn’t blame the school district. “It sucks,” she said. “There’s just no money.”
She held on long enough to get tenure. Now she’s looking for a new job. She’s certified to teach Social Studies to grades six to 12, and reading to grades five to 12.
She had to brush back tears as she described what she loved about teaching.
When she was a student, she said, she stopped wanting to go to school. But in 11th grade, she met a teacher who was so passionate and enthusiastic that she wanted to go to class.
“That’s why I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to repeat that experience,” she said.
She likes to design classes that are so interesting, teenagers “don’t realize they’re learning.”
She kept it up even after she got the layoff notice at the beginning of the month.
“If I give up, then that tells them it’s OK to,” she said.
And, in the end, she got tenure as well.
“That says it’s all worth it,” she said.