ATLANTA – A failing Savannah high school is firing its entire staff in an effort to avoid further sanctions from the state and to make the school eligible for up to $6 million in federal money, officials said Thursday.
The 200 employees at Beach High School — including the principal — will work there through the end of the year but will not be rehired for that school, said Karla Redditte, spokeswoman for the Savannah-Chatham County school district.
The teachers can reapply for their jobs but only half can be rehired under federal education law, she said. Staff can also apply for other jobs in the school district.
"It is a sad day for us," Redditte said by phone as she stood outside the 950-student school in south Georgia.
The move is the most dramatic of four tactics allowed by the federal No Child Left Behind law for schools like Beach that consistently fail to meet benchmarks. The Obama administration is offering $3 billion in grants this year to coax struggling schools to undertake one of the four tactics, which also include firing only the principal, converting to a charter school or closing altogether.
Experts estimate the mass-firing tactic is used to turn around 20 to 30 schools in the U.S. annually.
If a failing school in Georgia refuses to make any of those changes, the state places a special administrator in the school to focus on annual progress measures such as test scores and graduation rates. In Georgia this year, 45 schools have state administrators in them, including Beach High School, state Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza said.
Beach has been on the state's lowest performing list for seven years, he said.
Jeff Hubbard, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, said firing an entire school staff is "exceptionally rare" in most states. He said the teacher organization is concerned that starting from scratch will hurt the school more than it will help, particularly because many educators don't want to take jobs at failing schools.
"We're very concerned about how they will be able to get a full staff there," Hubbard said. "They're basically starting that school over."
A similar action at a high school in Rhode Island earlier this month prompted outrage from the teachers' union and anger at President Barack Obama when he said he supported the move. District administrators chose the mass firing after negotiations with the union at Central Falls High School broke down.
Georgia's teachers do not have collective bargaining rights, Hubbard said.
On the Net:
Beach High School: http://www.sccpss.com/Schools/High+Schools/Beach+High+School/
Savannah-Chatham County Public School System: http://www.savannah.chatham.k12.ga.us/