DISD non-renewing nearly 300 teacher contracts as some ask why

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on May 24, 2013 at 6:12 PM

Updated Friday, May 24 at 7:27 PM

DALLAS -- Late Friday afternoon, Dallas ISD finally revealed it's not renewing contracts for almost 300 of its 10,000 teachers.

Trustees approved that measure last night, along with getting rid of two of the district's more than 200 principals, in Mike Miles' most controversial reforms since becoming superintendent less than a year ago.

One DISD teacher, Ariawna Talton, still can't comprehend how she ended up on that list.

"It does hurt," she said. "It does sting."

For five years, Talton has taught English and journalism at Molina High School in Oak Cliff.

But Friday morning, she was hand-delivered a letter which said her teaching contract was not renewed because she is an "excess" teacher. Talton, 28, is one of the instructors that Miles has suggested is ineffective or low-performing and needs to go.

Talton said it began in April, when Molina's principal told her the campus would eliminate her journalism class and her position this fall. With experience teaching English courses there, she said she questioned why she couldn't move to one of those classes. Days later, Talton said, the associate principal told her the school would have her journalism class after all, but she wouldn't be teaching it.

Still, Talton never lost the "excess" label. That is among the criteria Dallas ISD uses when not renewing an employee's contract. Among the other 38 reasons on the list are insubordination, incompetency, and failure to report an arrest or indictment.

"There's nothing that warrants my termination," Talton explained, "nothing at all."

Her two most recent employment evaluations make this teacher's story even more interesting. In 2011, DISD said she "Exceeds Expectations." The district told her the same thing last year, too.

"This is a personal attack," Talton said. "This is a way to get rid of me, and then document it as my being an 'excess' teacher."

Her firing raises the question whether some non-renewals are the result of campus politics rather than a real desire to improve schools.

Talton said she is one of a half-dozen teachers who lost their jobs at Molina.

Dallas ISD said any employee whose contracts was not renewed can appeal his or her dismissal. Even if the district denies that appeal, educators can take their case to the Texas Education Agency and even civil court.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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