Members of the Sampson County Board of Education learned more about the recent changes to teacher tenure and the decisions the new law requires members to make concerning local teachers’ contracts during a Tuesday morning work session.
“The board’s got to make some tough decisions between now and the spring,” warned interim superintendent Mike Warren as he read over section 9.6 of Senate bill 402 which the governor signed into law at the end of July.
According to the new law which Warren pointed out is “effective immediately,” teachers who have not yet earned tenure — also known as career status — before this current 2013-2014 school year will not receive tenure now and many will be offered only one-year contracts.
“You (as a teacher) either have it (tenure) or you don’t at this point,” said Warren.
However, he added, according to the law, some teachers who meet certain requirements will be eligible to receive four-year contracts through the 2018-2019 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.
Once the pool of eligible teachers is determined, the law states that the superintendent will recommend 25 percent of those in the pool to the school board who will then approve the awarding of four-year contracts.
Warren pointed out that, in addition to their salary, those chosen teachers will also receive a $500 pay raise every year of their contract, which will total $5,000 over four years.
Decisions by the school board need to be made by early spring, he stressed, so that contracts can start being awarded and so that teachers will have time to respond to the offer by the deadline set by lawmakers for the end of June.
“In the end, it’s the school board that offers it (the contracts),” Warren noted. “But the General Assembly offered no direction in how to select the 25 percent” of those eligible teachers.
“We have roughly 600 teachers, 400 to 500 who are eligible,” he informed, asking though “whose a teacher?”
Warren shared with the board that the attorney general recently included instructional support staff, media specialists, and other personnel, as well as traditional classroom teachers, under the umbrella of “teacher.”
Board member Dewain Sinclair questioned where the chosen 25 percent of teachers would come from — each school or each district.
“That’s a good question,” replied Warren, explaining that choosing 25 percent from each school seemed like the fairest way but that such decisions concerning the selection process had not yet been made.
“We’re looking for the most objective process that we can find to choose the 25 percent,” he stressed, adding that he hoped a process could be recommended to the school board during its Nov. 25 board meeting.
“If we’ve got to do it, we’ve got to find out the fairest way to do it,” board member Glenn Tart noted.
“Teachers need to be involved because it affects them,” Warren added.
Before any decisions are ready to made, Warren told the school board members that they needed to decide whether to start moving forward or to wait until a new superintendent is hired.
“If we wait, he (the new superintendent) is going to have a lot to do,” replied board chairman Telfair Simpson, adding that it would only make the new school chief’s job “more difficult” from the start. “My suggestion would be to start working on it.”
The school board agreed but acknowledged the unpleasantness of the task before them.
“For a small school systems like us, it’s going to be problematic,” said Simpson. “Some feelings are going to get hurt.”
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.