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School Board Receives Update on Selection Process for 25 Percent of Teachers To Receive Four-Year Contracts

By Jesse Wood

Jan. 14, 2014. On Monday, Dr. Stephen Martin, human resources director with Watauga County Schools, updated the Watauga County Board of Education on the selection process of the 25 percent of teachers who will receive four-year contracts by June 30, 2014.

This summer, the N.C. General Assembly eliminated teacher tenure or career status for reigning teachers beginning in 2018-19. In four years, those teachers will be offered one-year, two-year or four-year contracts going forward.

While that is four years away, other changes were created that are already underway. As of August 2013, career status will no longer be awarded to teachers, and next school year, 25 percent of teachers will receive four-year contracts and all others – who didn’t retain their tenure or sign a four-year contract – will receive a one-year contract until 2018-19 rolls around.

Currently, school districts are in the process of identifying 25 percent of teachers in each school district for four-year contracts. Those that have career status must give up their tenure to receive these four-year contracts, which come with a $5,000 bonus and are only eligible to teachers who have taught more than three years in the school district. 

WCS spokesman Marshall Ashcraft mentioned that this selection process isn’t aimed at identifying the top 25 percent of teachers in the district. 

“We believe North Carolina teachers as a whole – not just an arbitrary percentage of them – deserve significant raises,” Ashcraft said, adding that those selected will be meeting a criteria created internally, one that will be prioritized with a teacher survey. 

Martin said that a nine-item criteria list has been chosen internally to help select the teachers who will receive four-year contracts. The list includes longevity, annual progress of student growth, continuing education and advanced degrees and other evaluating instruments. 

Martin also mentioned that he would like to survey certified teachers how to prioritize the criteria to whittle down the 253 employees eligible for 63 slots of four-year contracts.

“With any criteria, there are pros and cons. You can punch holes in anything you select,” Martin said. “Because this has been placed on us by legislation, this is not something that [we planned] ahead of time using things that already exist.”

Board Member Delora Hodges commended staff for seeking teacher input. She mentioned that teachers “need to feel like they are part of the process” to avoid abrasiveness in the end.

Supt. David Fonseca mentioned that he sent an email to school board members on Jan. 6 that detailed a school board in New Hanover passing a resolution, expressing its disapproval with these tenure-related changes enacted by our representatives in Raleigh. He suggested this board do the same. 

Board Member Barbara Kinsey agreed and said she would like to pass a similar resolution. (In November, Board Member Ron Henries mentioned that morale took a hit because of the new law.)

“I am just bitter,” Kinsey said.

Kinsey mentioned that this was unfair to the teachers and mentioned that she was worried about younger teachers securing loans to buy a home without contracts securing long-term employment. School Board Attorney Paul Miller, who rarely interjects for non-legalese, followed with, “That goes for anybody that comes into Watauga County.” 

Hodges made a motion to move forward with this “very difficult” process and the school board passed the motion allowing Martin to conduct a survey of certified teachers prioritizing the list of criteria to select the top 25 percent of teachers at Watauga County Schools. 

For more information on this topic, read a prior article