10/29/13 School board tackles state’s transition from teacher tenure
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 10/29/13
Reprinted with permission.
The transition away from teacher tenure in public schools is raising a lot of questions.
Some questions are which teachers will be offered special contracts, who is going to pay for it and will the Alamance-Burlington School System be sued over it?
“It’s a hot mess,” said Alamance-Burlington Board of Education member Pamela Thompson. “This is a very uncertain future for people who determine our future.”
The transition out of teacher tenure involves offering 25 percent of tenured teachers a four-year contract with $5,000 in raises and bonuses, Mark Doane, human resources program director at ABSS, told the school board at its regular October public meeting in the ABSS administrative offices on Vaughn Road.
The Excellent Public Schools Act of 2013 eliminates tenure in public schools for teachers and others like librarians and school psychologists by 2018, Doane said.
Part of the phase-out is this offer for a quarter of teachers who have worked in the same school district for three years in a row and get rated “proficient.”
“Of course, there is plenty of time for many, many lawsuits to be filed,” Doane said.
If those lawsuits succeed, many of the teachers who already have tenure could keep it, unless they give it up. All of which is a big if.
Some teachers, Cox said, were telling her they were not interested in giving up their job security for a bonus, while others, closer to retirement, could see an advantage in getting an extra $5,000.
Of course, Doane said, the Legislature has only funded the bonuses for the first of the four years.
“The cheapest year,” Thompson pointed out.
The first year of bonuses will cost the state about $10 million. With the bonuses being cumulative, that cost will go up another $10 million every year until it reaches $40 million.
Doane said there are roughly 1,200 teachers eligible for the bonus in ABSS, meaning the district would have to choose 300 of them.
The superintendent will choose which teachers to offer the contracts. The board of education must review the superintendent’s choices and can pick different qualifying teachers.
Board vice chair Patsy Simpson said she was very uncomfortable with the idea of the board assessing teachers, since the board does not get involved in day-to-day and personnel decisions. She asked ABSS superintendent Lillie Cox when she would bring recommendations to the board.
Cox said the administration is still working on the timeline.
The N.C. Department of Public Instruction will give districts model contracts in January and those contracts have to be accepted by the end of June.
Statewide, 96 percent of teachers are rated proficient, Doane said. So school districts will have to determine what they need, librarians versus science teachers, when they decide which teachers to offer the bonuses and four-year contracts.
Cox said she had been talking to superintendents from around the state, and was finding out districts have different needs, and will have to take those into account.
“This will never be fair,” said board member Jackie Cole.
Cole said she said she hoped the coming court battles would put an end to the proposal.
“I am optimistic about the possibility of a lawsuit,” Cole said.
Cox said lawsuits could end up being fought at the district level, meaning ABSS could end up in court because of this.
When Simpson asked about that, board attorney Kathleen Kennedy said she would prefer to talk about legal matters in closed session.
At this point, Cox said, ABSS administrators are looking at who would be eligible for a four-year contract and bonus, and talking to teachers.
After 2018, teachers will be able to get one, two or four-year contracts depending on evaluations.
“We’re spending a lot of time on something we’re going to do once,” Cox said.