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Without Cause

Jennifer ThomasI didn’t write a blog post last week, and that’s not because I didn’t think about it. All week long, a sort of anti-mantra repeated itself in my head: I hate this week… I hate this week… I hate this week…

It’s my first March 15th as president of the San José Teachers Association, my first brush with the heartache and confusion that come with helping teachers in our district understand that they are — without permanent status — “at-will” employees.  Under California Education Code, a teacher may be dismissed prior to the attainment of permanent status, without cause.


It’s heartbreaking.  Teachers call our office confused and upset, unclear what they have “done wrong”, asking for a chance to do better, usually asking for support in the form of instructional coaching, professional development, collaboration with their colleagues.  They tell me of expectations they want to meet and exceed.

They tell me that they would do whatever they are asked, and I have to tell them there is nothing I can do. It is too late.

What goes most often unsaid is what keeps me up at night: most of these teachers are brand new to our profession. What did we expect? Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs I know. Did our system set these new teachers up to fail? Couldn’t this have been done better? After all, decisions like this have consequences both personal and professional.

But, in the end, the law says “without cause.” And that’s the way it is.

And I am going to have to learn to live with it.

For now.

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