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WCS Deals With Elimination of Teacher Tenure

By Jesse Wood

Nov. 8, 2013. At Monday’s school board meeting, Dr. Stephen Martin, human resources director for Watauga County Schools, gave the Watauga County Board of Education an update on how the school system is addressing the changes to teacher tenure, which were enacted by the N.C. General Assembly this summer. 

Beginning in 2018-19 school year, tenure or career status for all teachers who have it will be eliminated and either one-year, two-year or four-year contracts will be offered to teachers. While the salary implications are not spelled out, it is the intent of lawmakers to move to a “pay-for-performance model built on robust measures of teacher effectiveness (especially in areas of student growth),” according to documents the North Carolina Department of Public Instructed presented county school officials in September.

WCSWhile that is four years away, other changes were created that have already taken place or will be enacted sooner. As of August 2013, career status will no longer be awarded to teachers. Up until the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, each school system will identify the top 25 percent of teachers and offer them a one-time four-year contract that comes with an additional $5,000 over those four years – if they voluntarily give up their career status, according to the N.C. Association of Educators. The deadline for those contracts is June 30, 2014, and is only available to teachers with three or more consecutive years in the district.

The teachers who chose to keep their career status will remain tenured until the 2018-19 school year, while everyone else (without four-year contracts or tenure) will receive one-year contracts until at least the 2018-19 school year. 

Dr. Martin said that tenure existed for qualified teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologists, media coordinators and so forth. He added that teacher assistants, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, administration and other employees have never been eligible for tenure.

Dr. Martin noted that Watauga County Schools has 397 employees certified, but only 253 of them have been employed for three consecutive years and are eligible for the four-year contracts to be earned by the chosen 25 percent. That leaves 63 employees who could receive the four-year contracts if they meet the criteria set by the WCS’ administration.

Speaking on Friday, Board Member Ron Henries said he has heard that morale is down now that teacher tenure is being abolished. Henries would understand as he has taught for more than 40 years, most of which has been in local public schools.

“I have heard quite a bit about it from teachers, how disappointed they were, how upset they are about the whole situation,” Henries said, adding that he thought the previous tenure law could have been revised in a manner that didn’t completely do away with tenure.

“I am not in favor of what the legislators did this summer,” Henries said.

In the end, it’s a state law.

“We’ll will deal with it the best we can,” Henries said.

Dr. Martin added that he has presented to several of the schools to inform teachers and employees of the upcoming selection process. He said by next week or so, all of the presentations at the schools should be completed.

In late November, a district-wide Q&A presentation will take place. An exact date hasn’t been scheduled yet.

In December/January, Martin said that the administration would then share the criteria with the teachers. That criteria hasn’t been established yet.

On Friday, Henries said that the central office would give the school board a list of the selected teachers and the school board would either approve or request changes to the list. 

“I seriously doubt we would make any changes,” Henries said.