After recent cuts, Tabernacle teacher asks BOE for her job back

Amy Brewin, one of the three special education teachers at Tabernacle Elementary School to be non-renewed at the April 29 BOE meeting, made an informal appearance, known as a Donaldson Hearing, with her lawyer at the June 10 meeting to convince board members to offer her re-employment.

Amy Brewin and her lawyer Jerry Tanenbaum are pictured during the Donaldson Hearing at the Tabernacle BOE meeting in the Kenneth R. Olson Middle School library on June 10.

At the latest Tabernacle Board of Education meeting, a teacher who had been laid off for the next school year during made a public appearance to ask for her job back.

Amy Brewin, one of three special education teachers, along with the principal at Tabernacle Elementary School, to be non-renewed at the April 29 BOE meeting, made an appearance, known as a Donaldson Hearing, with her lawyer at the June 10 meeting to try to persuade board members to offer her re-employment.

“Usually it’s behind closed doors,” said Brewin, who explained that teachers usually have a private Donaldson Hearing due to a bad record or privacy issues. “But because I feel that I’ve been truly wronged and there is nothing to back up why I was chosen, I felt like the public needed to know.”

Brewin and her lawyer, Jerry Tanenbaum, argued that the decision to cut her was “arbitrary and capricious” and not “purely monetary,” which was what the board had originally stated. For those reasons, Tanenbaum explained that they will appeal their case to court if they are forced to do so.

The board approved Brewin’s lay-off during April’s meeting, when the board passed a 2019-2020 budget that slashed multiple teaching positions and rearranged the art department, among other things. In all, the board put the blame on a loss of state aid.

Tabernacle’s decision reflected what many school districts across the state have dealt with due to Gov. Murphy’s state aid budget provisions. The announcement by the state happened last summer, and schools were forced to quickly figure out how those cuts will affect the following year’s budget adoptions.

Even while the board put the blame on a loss of state aid, the full room of Tabernacle residents and teachers did not take pity on Superintendent Glenn Robbins and the board. They expressed fierce opposition to the cuts during the public hearing and throughout the meeting, with shouts and interruptions criticizing the board’s controversial decision to cut staff, especially to the special education department. 

During the 15 minutes that her lawyer was able to speak for the hearing, he argued that the district’s decision to cut Brewin is actually costing it more than it would to cut one of the other 21 non-tenured teachers. He shared performance reports in which she had been rated as “highly effective” (the highest score achievable) by special education supervisors, the principal and the director of curriculum. According to the reports, Brewin had one of the highest performance reports out of the non-tenured group, all of which were considered for non-renewal. 

“In addition to being one of your highest-performing, she’s one of the cheapest,” said Tanenbaum, before reminded the board that it stated its decision was due to money issues. “So why select her out of the 21 available non-tenured teachers?”

In addition, the school had been helping Brewin receive her master’s degree, shoveling nearly $10,000 toward her education.

The board stated it will have an answer to whether Brewin is re-employed within three days. Until then, she is hoping for the best.

“I believe in the board, and I believe in the people of this town and I believe that they are going to make the right decision,” said Brewin.