The Seniority List

Both Joanne Jacobs and Kevin Carey link up Marguerite Roza of the Center on Reinventing Public Education who recommends, in light of forthcoming budget bloodletting, what no one in education has any business recommending: seniority-neutral layoffs.

 bigger, and even more programs will be cut than would be otherwise. 
our national unemployment rates will rise even faster than the budget 

“Is that that awful list?” a teacher asked me.

“Yep.” Five legal-size pages in eight-point font hanging to the left of the staff copier.

In a seniority ranking of my district’s 154 certificated employees, I weigh into the bottom 10% at #131. To filter the CRPE report through my perspective, I won’t survive even an 5% cut to our personnel budget (assuming no retirements or transfers) because, under seniority-based layoffs, the district won’t just hack off the bottom 5% of the list (which could decimate an entire department were it sufficiently junior). They’ll distribute that cut over each department in order to preserve a certain degree of balance in the master schedule. And in a seniority ranking of my district’s 10 certificated math teachers, I weigh in at #10.

“Some other basis” is the operative policy black hole in the CRPE report. We don’t have another basis.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Times are getting tough. Unfortunately, we’re starting to feel the same thing out here in the East Coast as well. Even with our tenures and everything, it’s still going to be ugly when this summer comes around. Good luck to you, man.

  2. Ouch – That’s a scary position to be in.

    I’m a 2nd year teacher. At my school, the only thing that’s making me even slightly hopeful of having a job there next year is the fact that I’m the 2nd most experienced full-time teacher. (3rd most, if you count our non-retired part-timer, who’s also department head.) We have an intern and a 1st year who were hired at the beginning of the school year… so they’d need to get rid of 3 math teachers if they were going to get rid of me, if they go by seniority.

    If they’re not? I might be job hunting too :( Because otherwise, I become tenured if they re-up me. (I’m on a probationary contract, not a temporary.)

  3. On the one hand, junior teachers are pretty bouncy, squishy creatures. One half of me would rather bounce out of here than bump a teacher who’s taught from the same room for twenty years and has strong ties to the community.

    On the other hand, it’s hard not to feel like my district is getting me at a bargain right now. And I’d like, for once, to pay my respects at graduation to a class of freshmen I once taught.

  4. If you get fired, I’ll get you a job at my school. Unfortunately, we’re perennially short on math teachers. I’m a single subject teacher at a middle school so there just aren’t other teachers that could move into my spot.

    We had a meeting where we were supposed to discuss seniority tie breakers. It devolved into a series of suggestions that boiled down to, “Well I do this so I should get credit for it.”

    My suggestion was “teacher quality.” I thought I was going to get strangled. Actually, I saw a fair number of heads nodding but nobody willing to vocally defend the suggestion. There was some shouting though. One teacher brought up that the district would then be able to “Use all of his bad evaluations against him”…….

  5. Hang in there and think positive. Obviously, you’re a pheonmenal teacher. Your current district’s loss will definitely be someone else’s gain.

    Our district is actually pink slipping everyone – all 2,500 certificated staff. Historically, they’ve only slipped the people who they thought they would actually cut, so this has been a rude awakening for veteran teachers. However, with a state budget that’s still currently undecided the district is truly unsure of who they will have to cut. Ironically the union’s response is to demand that teachers who are targeted for cuts be identified now. Compare this to my former district who’s union agreed to forgo any movement on the salary schedule this year (so no movement for units or years of service), along with a pay cut (I think 5%) so that all teachers and administrators could still stay employed. On another note, today is also the first “Furlough Friday” for all state workers.

  6. That’s some heavy duty ethos behind seniority-based employment. I’m of many minds in the whole thing (I’m pretty safe unless civilization devolves to The Road-like proportions and even then I have a carboy of homebrew to bargain with). What I do notice is that no one realizes that if you were to suddenly change the seniority preference in the contract, then you’d be in effect enacting a huge takeaway and there’s a good chance that overall teaching quality would decline. Well, maybe. One of the reasons teachers might be willing to take below-market salaries is because the perk of job security once you’ve hit tenure is remarkable and rare. Whether that’s a good thing is an open question.

  7. Dan,

    If you’re willing to move. Belgium has a shortage of math teachers.

    Downsides are: beamers and other media are just finding their way in.

    Upsides: my biggest class consists of 10 pupils. A full time job consists of teaching 20 times 50 minutes and a meeting every other week (approx. 3 hours).

    This is an invitation. But i wish you all the luck in your present situation.

  8. Sheldon Plankton

    February 9, 2009 - 8:21 am -


    Ahhh,…that’s what you mean by beamer. My undertanding is a beamer is a BMW as in the automobile company.

  9. Dan, I hope things work out for you.

    Having said that, if things don’t work out, this blog is one of the best job portfolios one could ever wish for.

    If you want to move to Ontario, Canada there are many schools and math depts. here that would love to have a tech-savvy, reflective, progressive math teacher . :-)

  10. I had this conversation with my boss yesterday, just a regrettable, here’s-the-state-of-things chat, however friendly. I totally blew my calculation, basically, assuming that I merely had to beat California’s bankruptcy to keep my job. But families are leaving my district en masse (for the same reason everybody is leaving anywhere with median house prices as high as ours is) and so I face an issue of declining enrollment also, the kind of problem that would force me out of my job even if we weren’t also in a recession. My principal mentioned a combination of fortunate coincidences – a balanced budget and several retirements chief among them – that’d save my job, but the situation sucks.

    I’ve had a few other hooks baited since earlier this school year (just coincidentally, not because I saw any of this coming) so I’m not beating my head against a wall trying to figure out how to stay in the Santa Cruz area. It just feels weird to be losing this job, especially for a reason as petty as money.

  11. Good luck with all the hooks. This post/thread is changing way I interpret your tagline. Hoping that it’s not your last unless it’s your choice.

  12. Dan:

    I’m a VP at a school about 30-35 miles away. If you are cut… e-mail me right away! I know that March 15 is right around the corner. We are in a cutting mode too, but we are a ‘basic aid’ district, so our blood-letting will be much less than other districts around. Plus, I know our salary scale is above most districts around. I have already shown my principal the Carver’s Guide to Classroom Management and the first math Video and although he wasn’t a fan of “The Wire” like I am, he was impressed.

    I know that this budget situation is going to cost a lot of great teacher’s their jobs. It is a sad commentary on the values that this society has at the present time.

    Kyle B

  13. Dan – I saw your tweet about the pesci-esque whacking. My condolences. Your school is taking a major hit to lose you. Not that you need a flurry of compliments, but I thought of your situation when I got home last night. Having recently shelled out for an NCTM membership (soon to be reimbursed, hopefuilly) I got my first Math journal delivered to the door. After flipping through it and reading a few articles, I was moderately satisfied, but not half as much as I frequently am reading your posts. I have value this stuff highly and I hope it helps you navigate the changes. Best wishes.