Non-renewed contracts cause outcry

By: 
Andrea Nelson

(3:29 p.m. This story has been updated with correct non-renewed contract totals from previous years.)

Every year at the end of April, the Tri-City United school board decides on a list of teacher contracts to not renew. This year was no different, yet more discussion and disconnect has come from the list as a result.

TCU Superintendent Teri Preisler said the need for non-renewal contracts is highly enrollment driven. If there are fewer students, that means there is need for fewer sections and less teaching staff.

This year the list included ten teachers, compared to 12 teachers in 2018, five teachers in 2017 and 15 teacher in 2016.

Preisler said the decision on which teacher makes this list is based first on their probationary status, followed by student enrollment numbers, the individual's performance expectations and licensure status.

Minnesota law states that a teacher who has not gained continuing contract status in another district before coming to TCU must complete a three-year probationary term, according to Preisler. This is reduced to one year if the continuing contract status has been met.

"It's a very difficult decision," Preisler said of the need to reduce teaching staff.

During the April 22 special meeting to vote on the ten teachers included in the non-renewal contract list, school board member Krista Goettl gave her opinion on the status of one teacher in particular, Emberlie Tellijohn, a kindergarten teacher in Le Center.

"I would like to share with the board before the roll call vote that Mrs. Tellijohn is an amazing educator," Goettl said. "She is kind, fair, firm and is an asset to our TCU school district. Kids respect her, learn from her and develop a love for learning because of her. She challenges them so they can be prepared, respectful and independent. It would be a great loss to our district to lose her."

School board member Michelle Borchardt agreed with Goettl.

The board questioned Preisler if individual names could be removed from the list.

Preisler explained that the non-renew contracts is an "all or none" process. She added that it is done purposefully this way so as to not single individual employees out.

After further discussion, the roll call was made. School board members Dale Buss, Marsha Franek, Josh Beulke, Kevin Huber and Ashley Rosival voted in favor of the non-renewal contracts list. Goettl and Borchardt voted against it. With the 5-2 vote the list was approved to not renew the 10 teacher contracts.

Later in the meeting, however, Rosival asked if they could return to the topic and asked if she could change her vote. Ultimately she chose not to change her vote because the overall vote would have remained the same, she said.

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