Parents and teachers worry Knox County teacher’s contract non-renewed as retaliation

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Many parents and teachers are upset after a number of Knox County teachers were told their contracts would not be renewed, some say, without reason. Teachers and parents in the county are concerned one non-renewal is retaliation toward a teacher who spoke out publicly against Knox County administration.

Teacher Christina Graham spoke out last year against SAT-10 testing for kindergarteners. Since then, those tests have been taken out of Knox County Schools.

“There are serious educational issues here in Knox County,” Graham said in 2014.

Christina Graham

Graham’s picture is now all over social media. She says she was told on Friday she wasn’t renewed because she “no longer fits the vision” of her school.

“I wasn’t expecting it, I was sort of blindsided with, you know, ‘You’re not coming back here, you’re non-renewed,’” she said.

Graham said she wasn’t given any other reason and says she’s had great evaluation scores all three years she’s been at Copper Ridge Elementary. She said she hasn’t had any issues other than being called in to talk to her principal after her speech to the school board.

“That’s the only, I guess, real issue I’ve had,” she said.

Incoming Knox County Education Association president Lauren Hopson says that’s what is causing concern.

“Teachers do have a fear of losing their job if they’re speaking out, if they are challenging policies,” she said.

WATE 6 On Your Side asked Knox County Schools about the process of not renewing a teacher’s contract, and also whether a principal has to give a teacher a reason for not renewing their contract.

“No,” said Dr. Kathy Sims, KCS Chief Human Resources Officer. “You can non-renew an employee for any reason or no reason, as long as it’s not an illegal reason.”

Dr. Sims says this happens every year to teachers who are not tenured. Last year there were 55 teachers on the non-renewal list. This year there are 33 so far. The district has until June 15 to tell teachers if their contracts won’t be renewed for next year.

Teachers who were not renewed can apply for another teaching job in Knox County.

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