Is bias clouding hiring of educators?

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I've been considering a position as substitute teacher here in Juneau, however, I've recently become aware of some disturbing issues.

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The reason for my interest in teaching is my gratitude, value, and deep respect for the teachers who taken the time and effort to instill in me the value of a good education as a means to a productive and fulfilling lifestyle. Also, I had trouble with math and took some special education to remedy that. As a result, I have had the opportunity to work with special needs kids, myself, and I have reverence for the people who are willing to work with these students, because it can be very trying at times.

The issue I'm addressing here is in regard to a friend of mine, Bill Burk, who teaches here in Juneau.

Burk started teaching in Juneau nine years ago. He had worked as a para-professional for two years, when a personal, non-job-related dispute occurred. The other people involved managed to get Burk sanctioned outside of administrative protocol. Burk challenged this action and was successful, and after further pursuing the issue, he was re-instated.

Burk took another position elsewhere in 2002 as an adolescent substance abuse counselor, which didn't pan out, and returned to work for the school district in 2003 as a substitute teacher.

Since then, he has been applying for permanent or full-time positions for which he's been repeatedly turned down. The consensus opinion, according to what I found out, is that he's being blackballed due to some personal biases.

Burk appears to be a competent educator. Thirteen of his colleagues in the school system can attest to this. I think it is sad that someone with the skill and willingness to perform an essential task such as educating our kids is denied because of personal prejudice over a non-job-related issue.

What's worse is that our kids are being denied the value of a dedicated and skilled educator. Isn't it supposed to be more about the young people who need an education? I'm grateful to have had and excellent education due to people who care about my enrichment.

Vincent A. Hayden


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