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Response to situation involving Green River teacher

Editors note: In response to Jayne Mecham's letter, I have some remarks from Superintendent Sitterud. He is unable to comment about Mecham's case specifically due to possible liablity concerns with personnel matters. In speaking with Mecham, I have come to the conclusion she wasn't aware that she needed to take the Praxis test to ensure she was licensed to teach in Utah. Whether this is negligence on her part, I can't say.

Supt. Sitterud's remarks: "First of all, I want to make it clear that I cannot comment on most personnel issues. There are liability concerns related to confidentiality. It is easy for employees to say almost anything they want in public, but the same is not true of those who are in positions of public trust, as you are aware.

"I will say, however, that Mrs. Mecham came to us with a Florida teaching license and that she was aware when she was hired three years ago that she needed to obtain a Utah Teaching License as soon as possible. This is on the job application (on which she indicated that she did not have a Utah license but had made application).

"Let me speak in general terms. Typically, the process for a teacher that is licensed in another state to obtain a Utah license takes only a few weeks to a couple of months to complete. It is the responsibility of the employee to obtain the necessary credentials to teach. On occasion we hire teachers while they complete the licensing process. If they fail to do so, we move to find a qualified replacement. Generally we would do this after the first year, unless there is a reason to extend that time. If teachers follow through with making the necessary contacts with the State Office of Education, as they are instructed to do, they would know all that is required, including the Praxis exam. When necessary we give employees regular reminders - generally verbally, until the situation becomes critical, at which time we give written notice that continued employment with the District would be in jeopardy if they do not obtain the necessary license in a timely manner.

"The District will, and has, put off any employment decision, if necessary, until receiving the results of attempted Praxis Exams. However, if the employee is unsuccessful on the exam, they have to wait three months to retake the exam and the results are not available for three-six weeks after the test date. Therefore, an exam that is taken in March, with unsuccessful results, the exam cannot be retaken until June and the results are not available until late July or August. As a District, we cannot wait until July or August to look for a qualified teacher-so we advertise, and if we find a qualified teacher, we hire them. The reality of all of this is that the District loses funding from the State for teachers who are not licensed, and over three years that loss to the District would be in excess of $30,000 in staff funding due to a teacher not being licensed.

"I cannot speak to specifics in relation to Mrs. Mecham's situation due to confidentiality, but I can assure you that we have made every effort to work with her over the past three years. In relation to accusations regarding employee reviews, I would only say that, to my knowledge, these teacher reviews are conducted as required. Licensing issues and teacher evaluations are not related issues," said Supt. Sitterud.

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