Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Teacher seeks district's apology in dismissal


The Haines Borough school board will hold an “informal non-retention hearing” starting 6 p.m. June 28 to consider the dismissal of kindergarten teacher Sue Ackerman.

The hearing was requested by Ackerman, who was hired a year ago.

In an interview this week, Ackerman said she recognizes the district had the authority to not renew her contract a second year, but she disagrees with how she was treated. Ackerman said she worked 55 days for the district before starting on maternity leave Nov. 7.

She said she returned to the classroom Jan. 5, was evaluated Jan. 13-14 and was told she was dismissed Jan. 15. Written notification of her termination came March 28.

Ackerman said she was having difficulty and asked for a second evaluation after more classroom time, but her request was denied. “That would have been fair to me. I just want to be treated fairly.”

“I want an apology. This was handled badly. I understand it’s unrealistic that I’d get my job back but I want to spread awareness on this issue, that non-tenured teachers don’t have any rights,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman said the district could have elected to advertise her position as open and continued working with her before dismissing her, and said that’s done in some other districts.

Haines School district interim superintendent Rich Carlson said this week he was limited in what he could say about Ackerman’s dismissal. “Her performance simply wasn’t adequate,” he said.

Carlson said the district had followed all its rules and protocols in supervising Ackerman and said that would be established at the June hearing.

According to Ackerman, the district’s evaluation form provides rankings for teachers, including “unsatisfactory,” “basic,” “proficient” and “innovating.”

“I was rated basic, basic and proficient. I wasn’t rated unsatisfactory in anything,” Ackerman said this week.

A first-year Haines teacher, Ackerman previously taught about seven years at preschools, which she said involved only a half-day with students and more than one teacher in the classroom. She started the year with 23 students, including 17 boys.

“It was a high-energy class. It was loud and busy at the beginning of the year because they’re boys. But they mellowed out,” Ackerman said.

A teacher and an aide substituted for Ackerman while she was on maternity leave, Ackerman said.

Ackerman said she inquired about getting an aide before starting on the job, but the district was unresponsive. Ackerman said when parents of kindergarteners went to school officials about getting an aide in the classroom, the district used that as a sign that she wasn’t up to the job.

She said community support she has received inspired her to pursue a hearing.

Ackerman also has filed a pregnancy discrimination complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Carlson said he expected the EEOC complaint process would go for months.


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