In the fall of 2013, when Jalisca Thomason was hired to head up Woodlake High School’s Ag Department, she seemed like the perfect fit. In addition to an advanced degree, the Cal Poly grad had four years of experience at Selma High and some great ideas to help students who wanted to pursue ag careers.
According to Shirley Martinez, Three Rivers postmaster, whose daughter has thrived and won awards under the tutelage of Thomason, there was a group of Thomason’s boosters at a recent school board meeting who were surprised to learn that the second-year teacher won’t be offered a contract for the 2015-2016 academic year.
Martinez said Thomason has done everything asked of her and expected to be offered tenure. Instead, she was given a notice that said resign or be fired.
The California Education Code stipulates that a second-year teacher must be notified of their status by March 10.
“It’s one of the most difficult decisions that a district has to make, and sometimes it’s an unpopular one,” said Drew Sorensen, superintendent of Woodlake Unified School District. “It’s not a financial decision, contrary to what some folks think, because a second-year teacher costs about the same as hiring a new one.”
Sorensen said the evaluation for tenure was changed in 1984 from three years to two years.
In the education business, Sorensen said the tenure decision is likened to the expression “Either you get married or you don’t.”
Once a teacher is granted tenure, short of doing harm to a student, Sorensen said, firing a tenured teacher is more difficult than getting a divorce. Under the current regulations, a district is not required to give the teacher a reason for not granting tenure.
“There’s a teacher shortage out there, and right now it’s a buyer’s market,” Sorensen said. “Ms. Thomason shouldn’t have a problem finding another job.”