Notice of involuntary transfers too late for Montgomery teachers, union says


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Some Montgomery County teachers are involuntarily transferring to different schools to fill staffing shortages, but union leaders say the late transfer schedule violates its contract with the system.

Montgomery County public school educators are due to report to school in about a month, and affected teachers received transfer notices this week, according to the Montgomery County Education Association, the teachers’ union that represents about 14,000 educators in the system. Under the union’s agreement, the organization is required to receive from the school system a list of members identified for involuntary transfer by the third Friday in March. The group plans to file a complaint.

Involuntary transfers can and should happen, MCEA President Jennifer Martin said in an interview Friday, but “there’s supposed to be a time when they happen.”

School system spokesman Chris Cram confirmed that five teachers have been transferred to Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring. Martin said she heard from nearly a dozen members – including teachers from Sherwood and other schools – who had been affected. Cram did not respond to questions about affected teachers at any of the other 208 schools in the system.

Concerns over the timing of transfers come as school systems across the country grapple with staffing shortages seen since the start of the pandemic and push to fill positions to keep schools running.

School transfers are used to meet regular and anticipated staffing needs in schools, Cram said. Offices of human resources, finance and academic support and welfare come together to decide when staff should be moved.

But in the past two years, those transfers haven’t happened, Cram said.

The teachers’ union expected more involuntary transfers to take place this year, as they have been halted for the past two years during the pandemic as the school system moved lessons online before returning to the in-person learning, Martin said.

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However, the transfers take place at “the 11th hour”, Martin said. When involuntary transfers occur, jobs are usually posted so teachers who are to be transferred can have a say in which school they go to next, she said.

But the lag can create “huge hassles for people,” said Martin, who are now altering their lesson plans and trying to move forward after already planning the material for the class they thought they were teaching. Members who transfer involuntarily also have to plan a new commute, rearrange daycares and possibly get to their second job, she said.

Montgomery has 390 open teaching positions full-time and 164 part-time as of Friday. There are 491 support staff positions open and 55 bus driver slots open, Cram said.

This year’s students need a summer school. Some districts cannot staff it.

The school system is working to recruit more staff through virtual and in-person job fairs locally, and to colleges and universities – including HBCUs – across the country.

“What’s also critical to understand is that hiring for all positions in schools is routinely very competitive and exceptionally competitive now,” Cram said. “All local systems face the same challenges in finding qualified staff to fill all vacancies. »

According to data from the school system, 576 teachers resigned in June. The number of resigning teachers in the county hovered in the low 500s between the 2018-2019 and 2020-2021 school years. On average, 534 teachers resigned each year, which puts this year around 8% above the average.

DC-area schools see spike in teacher quits

Martin often spoke at school board meetings about high workloads and staff turnover. She warned the school board ahead of collective bargaining negotiations of the high number of teacher resignations and retirements that would follow after the school year ended in June. As of June 17, union data showed around 2,005 teachers, support staff and transport workers had resigned or retired.

Around the same time in 2021, about 1,240 employees had also resigned or retired.

“We need a place for our kids to be ready to be productive adults, and our school system can’t do that when we’re not full,” Martin said Friday.

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