By Matt Harrelson
HAMLET — Members of the Richmond County Board of Education in a 5-1 vote approved Senate Bill 402, which eliminates tenure as well as career status for teachers who already have it.
The bill was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law during the 2013 legislative session as part of the Appropriations Act. The issue caused quite a discussion Tuesday evening at the board’s regular monthly public meeting. Superintendent George Norris said the school board has to align its policies with state laws —making the vote a formality.
This year, the Richmond County school district must identify the 25 percent of all teachers with three consecutive years service in the district based on performance and evaluations, in order to offer these teachers a four-year contract. The teachers who are selected and accept the four-year contract relinquish their career status, effective immediately, and receive an annual salary increase of $500 during the contract.
“This is an atrocious thing we’re doing to the teachers,” said board member Joe Richardson, who cast the lone dissenting vote. “This is more of that mess in the legislator in Raleigh. This is the worst piece of legislation to come out of Raleigh since I’ve been an educator.”
Four-year contracts may be offered to all professional educators who fall within the definition of “teacher” found in G.S. 115C-325(a)(6), according to information presented at the meeting by Assistant Superintendent Cindy Goodman. This boils down to everyone that is paid as a teacher will be eligible. The law required the superintendent begin the review and selection process on Sept. 1, 2013, so a teacher should have been employed three years prior to this school year.
Richardson sees this as unbalanced and wonders what’s supposed to be said to the other 75 percent.
“Career status is something that teachers earn,” said Richardson. “I’m opposed to this.”
The legislation states “the superintendent shall not recommend to the local board any teacher for a four-year contract unless that teacher has shown effectiveness as demonstrated by proficiency on the teacher evaluation instrument.” This means that a superintendent may not recommend a teacher if that teacher did not obtain proficiency on all standards on the teacher’s most recent evaluation.
These standards include demonstrating leadership, establishing a respectful environment for a diverse population of students, knowing the content they teach, facilitating learning for their students and reflecting on their practice.
Board member Jerry Ethridge believes the new law will cause teachers to rethink their career path and, personally, looked at tenure as an accomplishment.
“It was an initiative for me to become a career teacher,” said Ethridge.
A rating system will be used to assign numerical value for each standard using the last two years of evaluations to compare teachers.
Board member Pam Easterling summed it up saying, “It’s not that we don’t want teachers to have career status, but we also have to do what we’re told.”