Book Reviews

Dismissal Doesn’t Have to be Difficult

by Chet H. Elder

Reviewed by Donna McCaw
Associate Professor
of Educational Leadership,
Western Illinois University, Macomb, Ill.

As teachers came and went from a department chair's office, they noticed the book, Dismissal Doesn't Have to be Difficult: What Every Administrator and Supervisor Should Know sitting on top of a reading stack. One teacher later approached the chair and inquired (on behalf of the rest) why she had "that book" in her office.

The author, Chet H. Elder, a retired teacher union director with 32 years of experience in collective bargaining and teacher dismissals, would not be surprised that his work elicits such suspicions among the rank and file. He challenges many myths around the “impossibleness” of terminating tenured and non-tenured teachers.

His book will not be appreciated by those weak in their focus on children or in providing honest teacher evaluations. He writes about credible reasons for terminating an employee while criticizing principal preparation programs and professional associations for perpetuating the myths.

Elder reminds us that neither continuous school improvement nor educational excellence can be achieved through the employment of mediocre or incompetent teachers. He challenges the comfort zone inhabited by too many educational leaders. "Tenure is the most overrated concept in the history of public education in America," he contends. "Its perception is its power."

Admittedly, this reviewer was surprised with how simple the author makes the process sound. The intent, however, seems less focused on the termination process and more so on why you can legally terminate (there were more reasons than I realized), why administrators need to terminate and how administrators are negligent when they choose to look the other way.

(Dismissal Doesn't Have to be Difficult: What Every Administrator and Supervisor Should Know by Chet H. Elder, Rowman & Littelfield, Lanham, Md., 2004, 135 pp., $25.95 softcover)