DOBSON — Interpretation as well as determining implementation of General Assembly action concerning teacher contracts and the elimination of tenure for teachers and administrators was the focus of a special meeting of the Surry County Schools Board of Education on Thursday.
The PowerPoint presentation was given at the legislative update workshop for board members and school administrators by attorneys Fredrick Johnson and Douglas Punger.
“Every workshop I walk away from about this I have more questions than answers,” said Johnson as he opened the presentation. “We going to tell you what is our opinion on the changes in the law.” He told the group his impression of the General Assembly’s action was an effort to bring personnel practices in public schools in line with similar processes in the private section.
Johnson explained that he would be “apolitical” in his presentation and not say if the changes were good or bad.
“I’m a great proponent of not re-inventing the wheel,” said Johnson. “What you have before you is a budget bill not an education bill. This is not written by educators. It’s written from the standpoint of dollars.” As a result, he said some budget and financial deadlines do not mesh typical contract deadlines were are result of this.
Johnson and Punger’s presentation indicated the staggered elimination of tenure status and the establishment of a teacher renewable employment contract system would apply to all teachers on one- or four-year contracts beginning July 1 with current law remaining in effect until then.
He said tenure would be eliminated in its entirety by July 1, 2018. He told the group under the new law teachers with less than three years of employment in a Local Education Agency (LEA) or those entering their first, second and third year of employment would only be offered one-year contracts.
Teachers entering their fourth or higher year of employment in the LEA could be offered contracts of one, two our four years. Under the new law the definition of year is July 1 to June 30. Part-time and interim teachers are at-will employees under the new law, meaning they do not have contracts. Johnson said his interpretation of the new law could contain at least three definitions of what a school year is and advised the district to decide on one definition and be consistent.
“Notice the word consecutive doesn’t appear on this screen,” said Punger, who noted it would appear in later portions of the law.
The two pointed out to administrators that under the new law, after July 1, 2018 teachers whose contracts are not renewed have no right to judicial review of that decision.
Johnson said the new law requires the school board to conduct full evidentiary hearings and issue a final decision which is similar to the same rules under the previous law when a teacher did not request a review by a hearing officer.
Johnson and Punger told the group the new law also eliminates tenure for principals which was earned prior to or maintained since July, 1, 1995, and that the system’s superintendent must recommend to the board those who would be awarded a two or four year contract by July 1.
The two encouraged the group to decide on its special procedure for this year as they transition out tenure and fulfill the obligation to select a pool of 25 percent of their teachers to receive a four-year contract offer. The four-year contract selection process will involve superintendents, boards and administrators determining what evaluations to conduct and consider the State Attorney General’s opinion that the statutory definition of a teacher includes all professional educators including support personnel, guidance counselors, school psychologists, social workers and media coordinators.
All teachers accepting the four-year contracts in this transition period relinquish tenure and are entitled to a $500 a year pay raise for each year of the contract. Johnson and Punger urged the group to decide how teachers demonstrate proficiency, as called for in the implementation and transition schedule, which is a one-time situation. Johnson encouraged the board to adopt a uniform policy establishing the criteria and procedure on this for the superintendent.
Punger noted the new law does not require a superintendent to recommend the “top” or “best” performing teachers. He also said his understanding was teachers not accepting the four-year contact retain their tenure status until 2018.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-719-1952.