After months of gathering information, seeking legal advice, and running draft processes by a cabinet and the system’s Teacher Advisory Council, superintendent Stuart Blount and assistant superintendent Nancy Dillman presented the Clinton City Board of Education with a proposed process Thursday night for carrying out the recent law which eliminates teacher tenure and mandates that only a select percentage of teachers be awarded four-year contracts, a plan school members unanimously approved.
Signed into law by the governor in July 2013, it is Senate Bill 402, specifically section 9.6, that Blount and Dillman have been grappling with. According to the legislation, teachers who have not yet earned tenure — also known as career status — before this current 2013-14 school year will not receive tenure now and many will be offered only one-year contracts. Only some teachers — including instructional staff such as media coordinators, counselors, speech pathologists, audiologists, social workers, psychologists, Career and Technical Education teachers, and instructional coaches — who meet certain requirements will be eligible to receive four-year contracts, effective through the 2018-19 school year.
Those requirements, listed in sub-section (g) of section 9.6, include having taught in the same, current school system for at least three consecutive school years, and after undergoing performance reviews and evaluations by their principals and then the superintendent, having been deemed proficient or better in five areas.
The law further states that the superintendent will recommend 25 percent of those eligible to the school board who will then approve the awarding of four-year contracts. However, the law does not specify how that 25 percent should be determined, leaving that up to the state’s individual school systems.
Dillman detailed how early drafts of the proposed process were presented to the central office cabinet — Dillman, Blount, Lenora Locklear, Clyde Locklear, and Terrace Miller — and the Teacher Advisory Council which is made up of the district’s five Teachers of the Year. Those Teachers of the Year then shared the plan with their fellow teachers at their respective schools, and Dillman and Blount later visited each of the system’s schools to address teacher questions and concerns.
Calling the talks with faculty “good meetings,” Blount shared that “the teachers have not held anything back and they’ve been very professional about it.” He added that the system’s educators have already been advised to “weigh the pros and cons” of accepting or declining a four-year contract should they be offered one.
“I only need a ‘yes’ or a ‘no,’” said Blount about when, in the very near future, he visits the selected teachers in person to offer them a contract.
The process for selecting the needed 25 percent that was ultimately decided on and presented to school board members is one based on the teacher evaluation instrument and doesn’t take into account student performance or test data, stressed Dillman.
All teachers who have worked for the city schools for three consecutive years, including the current school year, and who have demonstrated effectiveness and proficiency as shown by their 2011-12 and 2012-13 evaluations, will be included in the selection process, she explained.
School officials have already asked for and received letters of resignation or letters of intent to retire and “those (names) have already been pulled out” of the selection process, she continued, adding that teachers with documented performance concerns during the current or previous two school years will also not be included in the selection process.
The 25 percent of eligible teachers will be selected from each of the city’s five schools with non-classroom teachers making up a separate sixth group or “school,” Dillman noted, as teachers in the same school “have been evaluated by the same administrators” and non-classroom teachers are evaluated by a different instrument.
Once the number of eligible teachers in each school is determined, school officials will multiply each of those numbers by 25 percent to reach the number of teachers in each school who Blount can then recommend for a four-year contract.
The superintendent will rate eligible teachers according to Standards 1 through 5 on their 2011-12 and 2012-13 NC Teacher Evaluation Instruments, giving proficient teachers a two, accomplished teachers a three, and distinguished teachers a four. Points earned on evaluations will be added then divided by the the rating total, resulting in one final rating for each teacher. The same process will be followed for non-classroom teachers using their own evaluation instruments and rating systems.
In the event of a tie, school officials have determined five ways to break any ties, shared Dillman. “I don’t anticipate us getting to that point.”
“We feel like it’s the best way to respond to the letter of the law,” said Dillman of the proposed selection process.
School board member Diane Viser inquired as to what other school systems in the state were doing to carry out the legislation. “Are other districts basing it primarily on evaluations?”
Dillman acknowledged that many are but that some are also taking into account other criteria including if a teacher holds an additional position in his or her school such as acting as a grade level chair or serving on a committee. However, city school officials decided against incorporating such criteria, believing that it could end up being exclusive rather than inclusive.
“Not everyone has the same opportunity” to take on additional duties, Dillman pointed out, offering as an example a teacher who cannot act as a grade level chair or serve as a club advisor because he or she is taking care of an ill parent.
Abiding solely by the teacher evaluation instrument “doesn’t withhold anyone unfairly,” she said.
Agreeing that the legislation “doesn’t say anything about holding other duties,” the city school board’s attorney Nickolas Sojka shared, “I feel confident this (proposed process) adheres most closely to the law.”
City school board member Randy Barefoot made a motion to approve the proposed selection process with Jason Walters providing the needed second. The motion carried with a unanimous vote.
Once the list of selected teachers is compiled, the superintendent will recommend the list to school board members who give final approval of the list. Contracts will be offered by June 6 and teachers will have until June 30 to accept of decline the offer. If accepted, the offer will give teachers a four-year contract and an accompanying bonus, a $500 pay raise every year of their contract, which will total $5,000 over four years. In return, teachers give up tenure which, by 2018, will be completely eliminated with previously tenured teachers losing their tenured status and all teachers being employed through renewable one, two, or four-year contracts and subject to new teacher employment provisions.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.