6 Phs Teachers Could Lose Jobs

No Child Left Behind's mandates make hiring and keeping teachers harder for small, rural schools

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The No Child Left Behind act is making itself felt within the walls of Payson High School.

The blow was delivered at the March 27 governing board meeting when members authorized "Notices of Non-reemployment" be delivered to six PHS Special Education teachers.

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Arnold Stonebrink is one of six Payson High School teachers who may be losing their jobs.

The teachers received notices they might not be rehired next year because none met the No Child Left Behind mandate that requires all teachers must be "highly qualified" in their subject areas by June 30, 2006.

The teachers -- Joseph Parone, Jan Hollingsworth, Monika Oakley, Arnold Stonebrink, Gregory Stamp and Dave LaMotte -- are qualified and certified in their core areas but not in Special Education.

Stonebrink, a father of three and the Lady Longhorn volleyball coach, said he knew the notice could be arriving but seeing it for the first time was unsettling.

"I admit I am concerned," he said. "I just hope I can be (placed in a teaching position) where I am considered (highly qualified).

"I don't think my family can live on my coaching salary."

Stonebrink said he is highly qualified in English but lacks a college major or bachelor's degree in Special Ed.

He currently teaches English to freshmen, sophomore and junior Special Education students.

LaMotte, a veteran teacher and former Longhorn wrestling coach, is one of the school's most well regarded teachers.

He too is highly qualified in his core subject area of history but not in Special Education.

For Myers, administrators and some school board members, releasing the six teachers is troublesome because some are considered topnotch instructors.

"It's not something you look forward to doing," board member Albert Hunt said prior to the March 27 meeting.

Although the six teachers have received the non-reemployment notices, they can hope to be rehired this summer.

According to the No Child Left Behind Act, which is the most sweeping education reform legislation in more than 35 years, if district administrators cannot recruit teachers who are deemed "highly qualified" prior to the onset of the next school year, they can hire teachers who might be lacking.

"(The six teachers) have been told they could be rehired," Myers said.

What is highly qualified?

To be considered highly qualified, a teacher must be fully certified, have a bachelor's degree and have demonstrated subject matter competency in each of the core academic subjects the instructor teaches.

Core academic classes are English, reading, mathematics, science, foreign languages, government, economics, arts, history and geography.

Needing to earn highly qualified ratings in several subjects is not a problem unique to Payson teachers.

According to the Wikipedia online encyclopedia, "No Child Left Behind requirements have caused controversy and difficulty in implementation especially for special education teachers and teachers in rural schools where they are often called upon to teach multiple grades and subjects."

For Myers and other district administrators, No Child Left Behind mandates make it doubly tough to recruit new teachers, because they must find instructors who have bachelor's degrees or college majors in each core teaching area plus Special Education.

In other words, certification mandates are doubled, sometimes tripled, for teachers of Special Education students.

The problem is particularly rampant in math and science.

"How do you find a teacher fully certified in math who will teach students with special needs?" Myers asked.

Most teachers holding math and science degrees are more prone to teaching calculus and advanced placement classes rather than lower-level general math and basic sciences.

Payson High School principal Roy Sandoval said rural schools are also at a recruiting disadvantage because they cannot offer the higher salaries that more affluent Phoenix and Tucson districts offer.

"If there's teachers out there, they will probably go to where the money is," he said.

In an effort to allow PUSD to offer Special Education teachers better pay, the school board, also at the March 27 meeting, authorized to expand salary ranges for the 2006-2007 school year.

"That should help us recruit," Myers said.

The American Federation of Teachers recently took a stand on the salary issue by urging Congress and the U.S. Department of Education to provide incentives to local districts to develop teacher compensation systems that have competitive base pay and benefits.

But while the federal government begins to strictly enforce NCLB laws and administrators struggle to find teachers, there are family breadwinners in Payson wondering what their future holds.

"It's difficult, not knowing if you'll have a job the next (school) year," Stonebrink said.

Sandoval agrees. "They are caught in tough situations and the answers are few."

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