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Teacher tenure: a Fairfax schools firing case

Published on: 
Mon, 06/04/2012
Media Source: 
Washington Post

Twenty-one witnesses testified in the case to decide whether Violet Nichols should be allowed to continue teaching in the Fairfax County Public Schools. The last sworn in was Nichols herself.

For days, she had listened poker-faced as Fairfax school officials picked apart her classroom performance, arguing that she was incompetent, intransigent and undeserving of her teaching position.

Now it was her turn to tell a different story: that she was unfairly attacked by a principal determined to see her go.

Such hearings are central to the job protections known as tenure. Once politically untouchable, tenure has become a target for politicians from both parties who call it an obstacle to improving public education.

Since 2009, the District and more than a dozen states have either eliminated tenure or made it harder to get or easier to lose. This year, Virginia nearly joined them. But Republican lawmakers in Richmond fell just short of passing a bill that would have allowed principals to get rid of teachers without providing a reason. The bill is apt to be considered next year.

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