Hull’s school department didn’t have the right to fire a guidance counselor and teacher who did not yet have tenured status, according to a state Appeals Court decision released yesterday.
Hull’s school department didn’t have the right to fire a guidance counselor and teacher who did not yet have tenure, the state Appeals Court has ruled.
The decision, which upheld a Superior Court ruling on an arbitrator’s decision, states that Alice Haseltine should not have lost her job because she didn’t receive a thorough enough review by school administrators before she was notified that she would not be brought back for the school year beginning Sept. 2003.
The question of whether the school department could fire Haseltine dates back to the state’s nearly 15-year-old education reform act, which created new conditions under which teachers could be fired.
For the first three years a teacher is in a school system, administrators decide year by year whether to renew the contract.
In Haseltine’s case, she had worked at Hull for two years before she was fired, one year short of gaining “professional teacher status,” a status which makes it more difficult for administrators to fire a teacher.
According to the labor contract between the Hull Teachers Association, teachers were supposed to be formally observed by a superior three times, and be given the results of those observations along with a chance to respond.
According to court documents, Haseltine was never observed in the classroom or as a guidance counselor in her first year, and was observed three times shortly before she was notified on May 30, 2003 that her contract would not be renewed for the following fall. Haseltine had even inquired about being observed and was told that evaluations would not be done.
“The whole first year that this teacher was working, nobody ever visited her classroom, and then the second year, nobody observed her until the last month,” said Paul Toner, vice president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the umbrella union for the Hull association.
The court ruling does not reference the reason Hull school administrators gave for firing Haseltine. She could not be reached for comment Monday.
Hull Teachers Association brought Hasletine’s firing before an arbitrator who ruled she should get her job back. Superior Court Judge Suzanne DelVecchio ruled that the arbitrator did not overstep his bounds in making that ruling.
James Toomey, the lawyer for Hull schools, said that the department believes that because the education reform law says teachers without professional status are considered “employees at will,” the district was within its rights to fire Haseltine.
“We’re arguing this (phrase) has to mean something because they added it with education reform,” Toomey said. “I was surprised by the decision.”
Hull’s school department has 30 days to determine whether it will bring the matter to the Supreme Judicial Court.
Neither Toner nor Toomey knew if Haseltine is currently teaching elsewhere.
Julie Jette of The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.) may be reached at email@example.com.