Friday, January 17, 2014

Quick Question: Do I have to document this teacher?

I want to move a teacher from a reading specialist position back into the classroom.  My district has recently changed the responsibilities of the reading specialist from a pull-out model to a school level resource model.  Under the new model the teacher is expected to coach other teachers to improve their skills in literacy instruction - by modeling and leading inservices - rather than meet with students in a resource classroom.  While she was good reading teacher under the old system, her skills under the new system are subpar.  

I recently met with her and presented her with a letter outlining her deficiencies and the reasons for the move.  She acknowledged that she has not been successful this year but asked if we could complete the move without the letter.  So my question is this, can I retract the letter and still move her back to the classroom?

Short answer, I don’t think so.

By documenting her performance and your concerns in a letter you have formalized your thoughts and given credence to your actions.  You have lessened the chance that the move was arbitrary or based on other (protected ?) factors.

Let’s say that you acquiesce to the teacher’s request and make the move without supporting documentation.  The teacher thanks you and you think everything is fine.  After all, she admitted to that her current performance does not meet your standards.  You sleep well at night.  Flash forward three months and you get a call from the Human Resources Department letting you know that the teacher contacted the EEOC and charged you with age discrimination.  HR wants to see your documentation relating to the reassignment of the teacher.

“Ummmm, well you see I had it but the we kind of made this agreement and well now I just but ….”

You turn into a blathering idiot simply because you were trying to be nice.  

Documentation, and hopefully for this case you had more than just the letter, can be your best friend when it comes to defending yourself against employee claims.  Not only that, as the leader of the school it is your responsibility to accurately evaluate your teachers and employees and provide them with feedback related to their performance.  That may mean that you’ll be involved in many unpleasant and difficult conversations but making sure your teachers are up to the standards of your school and division is an #edleader’s chief responsibilities.  

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