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Originally published Friday, May 31, 2013 at 4:05 PM

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Guest: ‘Mutual consent’ bill gets in way of ensuring good teaching

The bill to prevent teachers from being placed in schools without the principal’s consent actually would do more harm than good, write these Shoreline School District officials.

Special to The Times

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FOR the past seven years the Shoreline School Board and district leadership have worked diligently to maximize and preserve diminishing financial resources for our students, classrooms and schools.

Despite the fact our district has lost about $17 million in state funding since the 2008-09 school year , we are extremely proud of our students’ academic achievement, our educational programs, our student services and supports, and the extracurricular opportunities provided to our students.

The Seattle Times’ advocacy for state Sen. Steve Litzow’s and others’ proposed “mutual consent” legislation found in Senate Bill 5242 is misguided. [“Editorial: Yes on ‘mutual consent’ bill for schools,” Opinion, May 16.] The bill would be incredibly detrimental to the operation of our school district.

This legislation would essentially undermine the efficiencies we have put in place, by obligating the district to retain teachers, without a mutually acceptable school assignment, under contract for 12 months. If after eight months a mutually agreeable placement was not found, the legislation states that it could be grounds for termination after a protracted legal process.

We estimate that the cost of one such contract and the accompanying legal entanglement would provide for more than 4,000 hours of extended-learning support for underperforming students. This or many of the other underfunded needs in our district would be a far better use of district funds.

It is easy to understand how this legislation might sound reasonable on the surface, but as a former executive for Proctor and Gamble, Litzow must understand the chaos that would ensue in a well-run company if management did not have the authority to use employees and staff where most needed.

As school enrollment and specific population needs change from year to year, an efficient and well-run school district requires the same authority to control all of the moving parts in a complex organization.

As the largest employer in the cities of Shoreline and Lake Forest Park and, most important, as the institution entrusted with the education of most children in our community, we need the authority to manage our resources efficiently.

The district’s administrators are professional educators and skilled managers who work closely and collaboratively each year to efficiently place available staff resources in open positions. We do not transfer struggling teachers. It would be unacceptable for anyone to surplus a struggling or ineffective teacher to another building, rather than work through the performance issues beforehand at the current school site. In fact, any process related to performance improvement would have to begin all over again at the new work site.

Mutual-consent legislation was originally designed to remove ineffective teachers from classrooms, but instead it would create inefficiency in our staffing, waste valued district resources and incur high legal costs associated with the process to terminate.

The better alternative is to give the new state-mandated teacher-evaluation system a chance to work and use it as the means of improving and/or removing ineffective teachers from our classrooms.

This educational-reform issue may have applications in large urban school districts, but it certainly will not support the efforts of the Shoreline Schools. We do not support this legislation that will undermine many of the effective K-12 districts in Washington that are serving our students well.

Deborah Ehrlichman is president of the Shoreline School Board. Mike Jacobs is vice president. Susanne Walker is the district’s superintendent.

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