OSD teacher handbooks ought to include ‘just cause’ clause

In the 47 years that we have lived in the Oregon School District, we have seen many changes.

Buildings have been built and remodeled, staff have been hired and retired (including myself) and contracts have been negotiated and approved sometimes with the aid of an arbitrator.

During my tenure as a teacher/counselor at Brooklyn Elementary School, I experienced changes in contract language and the support and impact of administration and a variety of school boards.

An important part of the “contract” was the “just cause clause.” In simple terms, “just cause” means that in order to discipline or dismiss an employee, the employer must prove proper and sufficient reasons for the action.

Due to recent legislation, the Oregon School Board and teachers have created a handbook. The current version of this handbook does not include a “just cause” clause.  

The word “just” indicates fair, impartial and unbiased evidence. Without this we risk losing excellent and experienced employees due to subjective and biased reasons with no recourse for the employee. I know firsthand that the Oregon School District strives to hire the best and the brightest. That said, why wouldn’t the Oregon School Board want to keep those very teachers and staff?

If concerns should arise, the “just cause” clause provides a fair and unprejudiced procedure to evaluate employees and appropriate actions that can proceed.

It is in the best interest of our teachers, staff, administration, board and especially our children that a “just cause” clause be included in the handbook.

Chris Johnson

Editor’s note: This letter was submitted earlier in the month but was delayed because of technical problems. The Observer regrets the delay.

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