Seniority Rules Mean Classroom Confusion for Oregon Teachers

Published December 11, 2012

After half a day of math training, Oregon high school history teacher Jessica Keskitalo is teaching seventh grade math this school year. She is one of 365 Beaverton School District has shifted according to seniority rather than classroom needs during budget cuts. Oregon requires districts to lay off teachers with the least experience first, rather than according to quality or expertise.

Other teachers have been moved from social studies to science, singing to math, library to elementary homeroom, art to language arts, library to music, French to science, and more.

Approximately 160 teachers were placed in “significantly different positions,” the district estimated. Keskitalo, 35, has never taught math, and has taught middle school only during one month of student teaching. But her teaching license is broad enough to qualify her for the new position.

Teachers and principals had no say over the transfers. Eleven states require districts to consider seniority during layoffs, and most school districts do, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Beaverton transferred district librarian Jenny Takeda into a third grade classroom a week before the Oregon Association of School Libraries named her Librarian of the Year. She chose to substitute teach while rethinking her career, instead. 

Image by Herald Post.