Pink slip threat hangs over teachers headed back to class
Anchorage teachers went back to school Wednesday -- the first time for many who weren't sure they'd have jobs when the last school year ended. The threat of pink slips is still hanging over some of the teachers, even as they get ready for a new year and new students.
Among those concerned for their future is second-year teacher MiCall Sweet, who was excited to be back in her classroom at Gladys Wood Elementary.
"I wanted to be a teacher since I was in first grade, which is ironic since I teach first grade now,” said Sweet.
She wasn't sure she'd return. Sweet said she cried when she got a pink slip from her principal a few days before the end of last school year.
"It was heart breaking,” said Cindy Hemry, principal at Gladys Wood. “They're part of your staff. You love them. Giving bad news like that isn't fun in general but when it's people you care about, it's horrible."
Sweet had job offers from two out of state districts when the Anchorage School District recalled her at the end of June.
“I got an email that said my position and told me that I was getting offered a position back at Gladys Wood in first grade so I was super excited and I screen-shotted it and sent it to all my friends,” said Sweet.
But even as she unpacks her supplies, Sweet knows she could get laid off again, which made the choice to come back a difficult one.
“Do I really want to go back to this district that could be cutting me again in a year? Do I really want to go back to working for someone who would put me in that position again but then it was like, well, don't bite the hand that feeds you? You need a job so you're going back to work,” she said. "It's definitely unsettling. I feel like I can't settle in all the way because I'm not sure what's going to happen."
The district blames the legislature's lack of a long-term budget for Anchorage teachers' job insecurity.
“I'm hoping that the legislature will just figure it out so that we're able to not make these people go through this every single year,” said Hemry. "It's so bad for our city.
For now, Sweet is trying to put that uncertainty behind her and focus on welcoming her new students back to class. And if the layoffs happen again at the end of this school year and she gets another pink slip, Sweet said she’d more seriously consider moving out of state to a more stable district.