N.H. Teacher of Year Candidate Laid Off

Return to Table of Contents

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, April 17, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Christina M. Hamilton
N.H. Teacher of the Year Candidate

HAMPTON -- Hampton Academy teacher Christina Hamilton was given her pink-slip the same week it was announced she was a candidate for New Hampshire Teacher of the Year.

The eighth-grade social studies teacher was notified late on April 10, that her position was one of the seven being eliminated as part of the restructuring at the Academy.

Originally, Hamilton's name wasn't included on the list of staff to be reduced, which was voted on by the School Board earlier that morning. School Board members, however, made it official at a Tuesday meeting when they voted to re-hire Susanne Frost and let go Hamilton. School officials would not comment on the change citing personnel issues.

Kevin Fleming, grievance chair of the teachers' union, said the change appeared to be an oversight by administrators.

Whenever there is a reduction in (work) force (RIF), Fleming said, it is based on seniority. In this case Frost had seniority over Hamilton, who joined the district in 2006.

"It was an oversight by the decision makers, whether it was the SAU office or the board," Fleming said. "Even though she is recognized as a candidate for Teacher of the Year they have to go on seniority."

"I think the mistake underscores and highlights how hastily the decisions were made," said Andy Gushee, president of the teachers' union.

Administrators notified Frost of the error that day, as well as Hamilton.

Fleming said the way Hamilton was notified that her job was eliminated appeared to be "cold-hearted."

"She was on her way home and received a call on her cell phone," Fleming said.

"I think people are shocked that a mistake like this could have been made," Gushee said. "It just shows the real lack of sensitivity and attention to a pretty major decision."

On Monday, she was one of 35 educators from around the state honored at Teacher of the Year nominee ceremony held by the state Department of Education. She is now in the running to be named the state's 2010 Teacher of the Year.

In 2007, Hamilton received the Promising Practitioner Award from the New England League of Middle Schools. At the time, former principal Fred Muscara called her the "jewel of the Academy."

Fleming said the union plans to fight to save Hamilton's position, as well as the other four employees let go. In addition, two positions were eliminated because of a vacancy due to retirement and another created when teacher Andrea Shepard was promoted to assistant principal.

Others impacted by the board's decision to restructure are Grade 6 teacher Laura Bullard, Grade 8 teacher Sandra Tilton, consumer science teacher Joan Greenwood and technical education teacher Carole LePauloue.

"We are reviewing whether the reduction of force is, in fact, valid," Fleming said. "The budget is intact. Right now we are not in agreement that administrators can even claim RIF in this situation.

"These people are not being renewed for performance or for any other reason," he said. "We don't know if announcing a different academic model is sufficient to call for a RIF."

The union has 20 days to file a grievance.

Return to Table of Contents