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Moorhead school won't rehire 6 teachers despite support of colleagues, parents

MOORHEAD - The principal of Ellen Hopkins Elementary School has decided not to rehire six teachers on three-year probationary status even though they're said to have received positive feedback in their evaluations and have no bad marks in their f...

A crowd gathers Monday, April 9, 2018, at the Moorhead School Board meeting. Many were concerned that six probationary teachers at Ellen Hopkins Elementary were not hired though their performance had no negative marks. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
A crowd gathers Monday, April 9, 2018, at the Moorhead School Board meeting. Many were concerned that six probationary teachers at Ellen Hopkins Elementary were not hired though their performance had no negative marks. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

MOORHEAD - The principal of Ellen Hopkins Elementary School has decided not to rehire six teachers on three-year probationary status even though they're said to have received positive feedback in their evaluations and have no bad marks in their files.

Concerned parents and teachers spoke at a standing-room-only school board meeting Monday, April 9, attended by nearly 100 people.

One of the speakers, Matthew Peterson, is among the six probationary teachers. "I have not and will not give up on Moorhead Public Schools and hope that they will not give up on me," he said.

The decision is still up for debate and some say they are ready to fight for their jobs. Board members agreed to hold a special meeting on the issue and tabled discussion of the matter until then.

Ellen Hopkins first-grade teacher Thomas Dooher, who is not among the six probationary teachers, spoke of the decision at Monday's meeting. "Schools have climates, and this has already created anxiousness for new teachers and veterans alike," he said. "Teachers are not disposable, and this non-renewal (of their contracts) says they are."

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Another speaker was Bethany Cromwell, parent of two students at Ellen Hopkins.

"I've seen two of these teachers put more time in than is expected of them," Cromwell said. "I will have to explain to my children why these teachers are gone."

In Minnesota, continued employment after a teacher's probationary period is not guaranteed. During the probationary period, a school district has considerable discretion in deciding whether or not to renew the probationary teacher's employment contract.

Ellen Hopkins Principal Lynnelle Dirksen did not speak at the meeting.

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