Honored teacher says frustration led to resignation letter

AP News
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Posted: Oct 30, 2015 9:24 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Ann Marie Corgill is a nationally certified educator and a published author with more than 20 years of experience who was selected as a finalist for national teacher of the year in 2014-2015. So when she was told she wasn't qualified for her new position teaching fifth grade at a federally funded low-income school, she was more than a little frustrated.

Corgill said Friday that she fired off a resignation letter out of frustration, but that she is now trying to work out the issue with the school system, and will "continue to give my life to the profession."

Corgill said in a statement that she was already frustrated because she hadn't been paid for a month due to a payroll error.

"When the news came that I was not considered highly-qualified," a measurement that applies to federally subsidized schools, "my frustration boiled over," she said.

"Every child I teach and learn from is a part of me," Corgill said. "I love them and work to give them my best. The wall of bureaucracy I encountered trying to straighten all of this out with my employer led to my writing the letter."

Corgill was teaching at an elementary school in Mountain Brook, one of the South's most affluent communities, when she was named the state 2014-2015 teacher of the year. She was also one of four finalists for national teacher of the year.

This year she took a job teaching at Birmingham's Oliver Elementary, which receives federal Title I funds because it serves a high number of low-income students. She took a job teaching second grade, but was moved to a fifth-grade classroom after the first month of school.

It was then that it was pointed out to her that Corgill didn't meet the definition of "highly qualified" that is required for such Title 1 Schools because her current state certification allows her to teach only up to the third grade. Corgill has a national certification to teach children up to age 12. But that does not supersede the state certification requirement, said Alabama Department of Education spokeswoman Erica Pippins Franklin.

"At no time did we or anyone involved imply or require that she resign as a result of this discovery by the Birmingham City School System, but at the same time we are not at liberty to pick and choose to whom we apply the HQT requirements expected of all teachers at a Title I School," Alabama Superintendent Tommy Bice said in a statement.

Chanda Temple, a spokeswoman for the Birmingham City School System, said she could not comment on a personnel matter, but that the system is continuing to work through the situation.

Corgill said she never meant for her "pending" resignation letter to become public and that it was published in the news media without her permission.

Nonetheless, she said the experience "has shown me the importance of teachers' voices in public education."

"At this point, we are working together to try and solve this immediate set of problems," she said.