In the State of California the non-reelection or release of probationary teachers is within the sole discretion of the school district. A probationary teacher may be timely non-reelected within the first two years without any cause whatsoever, without statement of reasons, and without any hearing or appeal. Upon beginning the third year in a school district the teacher then becomes tenured. Tenured teachers can only be dismissed by the school district proving unsatisfactory performance or unprofessional conduct. While it may sound simple enough, the process of dismissing a tenured teacher can become time-consuming and costly. Due process for teacher dismissal in California may include a local administrative hearing and possibly an adjudication hearing on the matter before a three-member Commission on Professional Competence, which also includes a state administrative law judge, a representative from the district and a representative for the teacher. For these reasons, it is important that school districts make careful decisions regarding teacher reelection during the first two years of a teacher’s employment.
The Gridley Unified School District Board of Education had on its Closed Session agenda the recommendation for the non-reelection of two un-named certificated teachers. This process is conducted in Closed Session so as to keep this action as confidential as possible. Nonetheless, the teachers in this case chose to identify themselves and to go public with students and parents about their impending release. This prompted a protest of over 40 Gridley High Students on Wednesday morning in the front of the school. Later that night students and parents attended the School Board meeting to bring their concerns to the Board.
After hearing their impassioned pleas at the beginning of the school board meeting that night, Gridley Unified School District Board President, Richard Harp announced, after a 10-minute closed session meeting, that the Board had taken action to approve the recommendation for non-reelection of two certificated teachers. Again, the Board did not identify the teachers by name during these proceedings.
Nonetheless, the teachers chose to identify themselves as first year teachers Paul Gadbois and Windy Pappas. Pappas teaches Chemistry and Physics and Gadbois teaches English and English Language Development. Both teachers were given the opportunity to speak before the Board members went into closed session. Gadbois told board members how much he loved his job and the students. "I have put my heart into everything I do for these students," he told Board members.
Already Co-Advisor for the Freshman class, Gadbois showed an interest in coaching baseball but was told that, by practice, first year teachers were not recommended to coach so they could concentrate on the preparation for their classes. But when the JV softball team needed a coach Gadbois was asked to step up and he did. In his presentation he stated Superintendent Rick Rubino had only spent 20 minutes observing his class all year. When asked to respond to this by this reporter Mr. Rubino said, “First of all, I am not Mr. Gadbois’s evaluator. Secondly, I have visited Mr. Gadbois’s classroom many times this year as I have done with many Gridley classrooms. Thirdly, it was inappropriate of Mr. Gadbois to make his non-reelection about me”.
Page 2 of 2 - Several students approached the podium to defend both teachers and express how much they have made a difference with the students’ educations and lives.
Both were thanked for always being available to help the students even if it is over a weekend by email and even helping students who were not in their classes.
"I have both teachers. Mr. Gadbois goes the extra mile to give us the most instruction and Ms. Pappas pushes us the extra step. They have been excellent teachers - two of the best Gridley High has ever seen. They are both here tonight and want to teach here. They have made such an impact on our lives", student Kristen Sannar stated.
Pappas told board members she was told her contract would not be renewed on her birthday and that it came as a complete shock. She stated that Principal Joan Zappettini had observed her classroom twice and was told how well she did.
"I never had so much as an email of dissatisfaction or told I was not up to standards. Pay attention to how passionately I love it here," Pappas tearfully said.
Pappas stated to the newspaper that she feels the reason she has been dismissed is because of her interest expressed in bringing AP classes to the school and that 45 students had shown enthusiasm to take her proposed classes.
Parent Shirley Law tearfully told board members her children are inter-district and that she drives them here every day because of the education they are receiving at Gridley High.
"Mr. Gadbois has been attentive to our needs. He is quick to respond to my emails. He was generous providing files and homework when my sophomore student was sick. I enjoy his moral compass. He pushes my son more than he is used to. As a coach he raises the bar but he is not unkind. That is the kind of teachers I want and will drive my children here for," Law told Board members.
An ESL student told the board that Gadbois emails her with feedback on her essays even on the weekends. Learning how to write essays while learning English, this student said the students would lose so much help if they didn't have these teachers.