MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Hundreds of Mobile County Public School System teachers and staff received letters last week notifying them that their contracts may not be renewed. While some teachers and staff are upset, particularly because this comes during a teacher shortage, the MCPSS said the letters are a part of the process determined by law.

Every summer, school systems across Alabama go through a process where they must non-renew certain non-tenured employees. Last week, MCPSS sent letters to 297 of the system’s 7,300 employees. But some who got those letters asked why it’s happening during a teacher shortage crisis.

“By law, we must send a letter to any employee who may be non-renewed by the last day of school, which was last Thursday,” MCPSS said in a statement. “MCPSS has been able to greatly reduce the number of employees who receive non-renewal letters over the years.”

WKRG News 5 spoke with several teachers who received non-renewal letters. None wanted to go on record with their concerns, saying they were concerned about whether or not they would get rehired. But many reported feeling scared and helpless, including single mothers, people living paycheck to paycheck, who are not sure what they will do next. They said they were also upset that the letters came on the same day MCPSS hired 94 people at a job fair.

MCPSS told us there are reasons for the letters. About half, they said, were due to certification-related issues. During the height of COVID-19, the state issued many emergency certifications. MCPSS said teachers who were working under an emergency certification need to be re-certified by the Alabama Department of Education to teach in their specific content areas.

MCPSS said another 50 letters went out because some schools lost funding for teachers. The state bases funding for teachers on enrollment, which was down during the pandemic. Other letters, MCPSS said, were sent out because of underperformance.

MCPSS explained the job fair where they hired 94 staff by saying they were filling gaps they had even during the school year.

“We still need teachers of certain subjects and at certain schools,” MCPSS said. “For example, a school may have lost a teaching unit or two, but may still need a math teacher, or a kindergarten teacher, for example. Or, School A may have all of its positions filled, but School B needs two or three teachers.”

MCPSS encouraged anyone who received a letter to reapply for positions. MCPSS said most could be hired back. MCPSS is still offering bonuses for newly hired teacher who teach specific subjects or who work at some of our harder-to-staff schools as well.