A battle is brewing in Gridley, where many parents and students are upset that four teachers have been told they will not be allowed to return. The teachers were given pink slips Thursday, one day before a three-day weekend. As soon as word got out, several parents began to mobilize, upset that such "valuable" teachers were being fired. Friday, a crowd gathered in front of Woodrow Wilson Elementary, a mix of parents, teachers, and young students. They held colorful signs showing their support for the four women, and shouted "Save Our Teachers!" at cars driving by. According to Gridley Elementary School PTA President Adriana McConnell, the women were fired, but are allowed to finish the school year. They were given non-reelect status, which means they are not offered tenure, and cannot reapply to the district for one year. McConnell says, on the advice of the teachers' union, three of the women tendered their resignation to avoid a black mark on their resumes, and another sought the advice of an attorney. She says the Gridley Unified School District has not explained it's decision. Says McConnell, "The district flat says they are not going to give us information, that they don't have to, that because these women were in their 2nd year probation, they don't have to give reasons for letting them go, which is true. By law, they don't have to. But we're a very small town, it doesn't seem right, we need a reason." McConnell says the educators who were fired grew up in the north state, and plan to call Gridley their home for many years to come. She says she doesn't understand why these women were singled out, when they have such deep roots in the community.
Lea Martin says two of the fired teachers have had an enormous impact on her young son Bobby. She says she had planned to homeschool him because he was afraid to leave her side, until they took a special interest in him, and made him feel safe at school. She says, "The superintendent says this is not personal. But this is very personal to me and my children. Had it not been for 'Mrs. B' and 'Mrs. Gonzales,' my son wouldn't be where he is today." Friday, Superintendent Rick Rubino answered our questions via email. In it he stated, ""Pursuant to California Education Code, probationary teachers may, at the sole discretion of the School District, be non-reelected without any cause whatsoever, without reason or right of appeal by March 15 of their second year. Second-year teachers who are reelected to the succeeding school year become permanent and tenured employees. This is a common occurrence in school districts throughout the State of California at this time of year. I am unable to provide any additional comments at this time."
Another protest is planned ahead of Wednesday's school board meeting.