Fight looms over teacher positions

NASHUA – The school district has decided not to rehire at least two tenured teachers for next year, a move that union officials are vowing to challenge.

Three teacher hearings have been scheduled over the next two weeks before the Board of Education, at which representatives from the Nashua Teachers Union are expected to press district officials on why the teachers were let go.

The hearings are also an opportunity for administrators to present their case to the board, which will ultimately have to decide whether to uphold the decision.
The first hearings are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. A third hearing is scheduled for Tuesday of next week.

Bob Sherman, president of the union, said the purpose of the hearings are to determine whether the district has been able to establish just cause for termination.
Sherman wouldn’t say how many teachers are impacted or who the teachers are.
“We have an obligation by contract to make sure that teachers’ rights are preserved,” he said.

“We’re in different stages with different individuals,” Sherman added. “There are times when cases might not reach the school board or when something else has been worked out.”

Sherman said the hearings would also be used to determine whether all of the proper procedures and district policies have been followed.

Superintendent Christopher Hottel said that because it is a personnel issue, he couldn’t comment.

Tenure is earned in New Hampshire after a teacher has worked for more than three consecutive years in the same district. The district is required by law to inform teachers, tenured or not, by April 15 whether they are being brought back for the next year.

The district is not held to the same standard for proving just cause when nonrenewing teachers without tenure. When let go, nontenured teachers are not entitled to the reasons for being let go or a hearing before the school board.

The term used by the school district when terminating a teacher is “nonrenew.” According to Dana O’Gara, director of human resources, seven teachers have been nonrenewed for next year, two of which are tenured teachers.

The district could not say with what frequency it seeks to nonrenew tenured teachers. The district did not nonrenew any tenured teachers last year,
O’Gara said.

Section 13:3-B of the contract reads: “No employee who has taught in the Nashua School District for more than three consecutive years shall be disciplined, including discharge, without just cause.”

There are also state laws that govern situations when tenured teachers are let go for performance reasons, though Sherman could not say whether this was a performance-related issue.

When tenured teachers are let go for “unsatisfactory performance,” state law requires that superintendents prove that teachers were previously made aware they were not meeting standards.

Superintendents must also prove that teachers were given a reasonable opportunity to correct the problems and that they failed to do so, according to state law.

If the Board of Education sides with administration, Sherman said the teachers have the right to go to arbitration or to appeal the decision to the state Board of Education.

Sherman said he didn’t know whether the hearings would be held in public.
Typically, it is up to the person requesting the hearing whether it will be held in open or closed session.