Newark’s Marion P. Thomas charter school has terminated the jobs of half of its teaching staff–just months after it raised salaries in a move supposedly designed to retain its best instructors.
“They said they wanted to keep their best teachers but what they really wanted to do is use the raises as a way of recruiting new teachers to replace those they are laying off,” said Maria Parelis, the president of the union representing instructional staff at the school.
Marion P. Thomas is one of the few charter schools where a union, an affiliate of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), represents teachers.
According to Edward Stevens, an NJEA representative, Marion P. Thomas administrators sent termination letters to 37 of the schools 79 teaching staff members.
That represented 20 non-tenured teachers whose contracts were not renewed and 17 pre-K teachers whose jobs were eliminated whether or not they had tenure.
“This is churning,” said Stevens. “They are getting rid of people before they achieve tenure.”
Under the state’s new tenure law, charter school teachers do not receive tenure until they work more than five years at the same school. As a consequence, many charter schools keep their staff members or five years and then let them go.
“It is not unusual for charter schools to do this,” said Stevens. “But this is an extraordinarily high number.”
Stevens said administrators approached union representatives to ask that cotract talks be reopened so that the school could raise teacher salaries.
“That was unusual,” he said, “but it certainly wasn’t something we could turn down.”
P:arelis said she believed the school was “determined to get rid of its high cost teachers–no matter what the cost to the instructional program.”
She said the school would reopen in the fall with new teachers who would have to be trained in the programs the school uses.
“Who is going to be there to help these new teachers?” she asked.
An email sent to the school from this site was not answered.
The school enrolls some 700 students, according to its website.