School board gears up for hard teacher choices

By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Feb 04, 2014

The Haywood County Board of Education spent an hour of its lengthy work session Monday night hashing through a new state law that could pit teacher against teacher and will force near impossible choices for administrators.

The law requires Haywood County Schools to offer four-year contracts that include annual $500 raises to 25 percent of teachers who have worked three consecutive years in the same school district and have earned a "proficient" job rating. Other tenured teachers will be able to retain their tenured status — for now, but won't receive a pay raise.

There are 408 tenured teachers who can be considered for the pay increase, but only 102 of those teachers will be selected, said Bill Nolte, associate superintendent. There is a total of 661 teachers in the Haywood County Public School system.

"The legislation willed us to pick our top 25 percent and give them a four-year contract, and then four years from now everyone will lose tenure," said Nolte. "We have people who were three years in, who would have gotten tenure, and they no longer can get that."

Tenure means a teacher is promised a job as long as he or she followed the law and met performance standards, Nolte said. Under the new law, tenure will be abolished by 2018, something many in the public education system across the state contend will lead to lawsuits.

The decision of which teachers will receive a raise rests in the hands of an appointed committee, made up of school board member Lynn Milner and various teachers, administrators and principals.

The committee is heavily considering last year’s teacher evaluation scores in the selection of its top teachers. In attempt to get up to speed with the evaluation process, the school board received a thorough presentation from Jason Heinz, the school system's human resources officer, on the rubric for evaluating North Carolina teachers.

Top teachers are going to be evaluated on two standards from the rubric — their demonstration of leadership and the way they facilitate learning in their classrooms.

“When the board determines exactly what they want, we will take the formula and apply it to last year’s scores and that will produce the names,” said Nolte.

Teachers deemed to be in the top 25 percent will have to choose between having tenure, or accepting the $500 bonus, which is budgeted for this year only.

No selection criteria has yet been finalized, Heinz said, but the school board is expected to approve the criteria for the top 25 percent of teachers during its Feb. 10 meeting.

Nolte said the criteria likely would produce ties between the teachers, and that would have to be addressed at some point.

Questions remain

While the decision of choosing the top 25 percent of teachers is looming, the school board still does not favor the change.

“Our problem is we out-performed 85 percent of the other schools in the state, so we feel like we should have more teachers,” Nolte said, referring to the top teachers who will receive a bonus.

Board member Bob Morris said he was against having to choose only a few teachers, adding that there were many great teachers who deserved the raise who would not get one.

“The way it’s being done is the most stressful thing,” Morris said. “People are going to feel like were pitting people against each other.”

One big concern for the board is how people will react when the top 25 percent is finally chosen. As a means to soften the blow, board member Jim Harley Francis suggested passing a resolution stating that the board doesn’t agree with the change.

“It’s insulting to think you're going to work harder to teach a child because you're going to get more money,” Jim Harley Francis said. “But that doesn’t mean that the teachers don't deserve money.”

“If you’ve got a teacher who constantly gets out there and teaches — pay them,” Morris added. “That’s the problem that I have with only paying 25 percent. I want every teacher to get paid, that’s the problem.”

Comments (7)
Posted by: Sharon Cagle | Feb 05, 2014 09:15

It does seem to be a tough decision but in the scope of things would you really want to give up your tenure for less than $10.00 a week. I am not a teacher but I am married to one. I do agree with Francis --- pay them.

Posted by: Sharon Cagle | Feb 05, 2014 09:18

Just want to point out the above comment is by Stacy Cagle - Sharon's husband.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Feb 05, 2014 09:53

I am ignorant of the practice of tenure.  The theory seems to be this: "it protects teachers and researchers when they dissent from prevailing opinion, openly disagree with authorities of any sort, or spend time on unfashionable topics."  So my question is, does tenure REALLY provide this freedom for teachers in the public schools?  If a tenured teacher, for example, resumed the teaching of Creationism (which was once the prevailing opinion) would tenure ensure that teacher is protected?  If a tenured teacher were to deviate from this new "common core" stuff, does tenure provide her protection to do that?

Posted by: John C Sanderson | Feb 06, 2014 12:11

Tenure was established as a protection for teachers, so that teachers could not be dismissed arbitrarily or capriciously by local school boards for political or other reasons. Tenure provides teachers with "due process" protections, but it by no means gives teachers license to do whatever they like in the classroom, regardless of established state or local standards and practices. Any "career status teacher" (i.e., one with tenure) may be dismissed for sufficient cause at any time.

Under the Teacher Tenure Act, teachers may be dismissed (after being afforded their full due process rights) for a number of reasons, five of which are directly related to job performance:

1. Inadequate performance;

2. Neglect of duty;

3. Failure to fulfill their statutory duties;

4. Insubordination;

5. Failure to comply with the reasonable requirements of the Board.

In answer to your questions, any teacher who failed to follow the directives of the board of education and/or the directives of school administrators regarding the curriculum to be taught would place him/herself in jeopardy of being recommended for dismissal for a number of the reasons cited above. Likewise, refusal to adhere to established standards ("Common Core" or otherwise) would open a teacher to the possibility of a recommendation for dismissal for the same reasons.

I hope this helps eliminate some of your obvious misunderstandings and misinterpretations regarding "teacher tenure."

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Feb 06, 2014 12:52

             What Mr Sanderson said!

             As to "creationism". It requires a leap of faith to believe in a God that choses to be neither "seen or known". It does not require a leap of faith to accept nor teach those "self-evident truth's" OUR Founders established the secular republic of the United States of America on. Nor proven science, such as evolution. Nor can OUR public schools discriminate by favoring any particular religion over another, as James Madison pointed out while discussing the religious clause of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, 'a government that can merely tolerate religion, can tolerate one religion over all others. There must be free exercise. John Locke's Theory of Toleration became inadequate and Madison's "free exercise" was adopted in Article 16."That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity, towards each other".

           While not an "establishment" nor endorsement of any particular religion, it is a guide of public duty that can most certainly be taught in the public schools, especially as it is a Founding Document.



Posted by: Beth G. Johnson | Feb 06, 2014 15:37

As a former teacher in Haywood County, I know that way over 25% of our teachers are excellent!  This insulting 'pay raise' should be abolished.  The General Assembly should be ashamed for proposing this nasty trick on our fine public schools.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | Feb 06, 2014 20:28

"Tenure provides teachers with "due process" protections" -- do non-tenure teachers have the same due process?  Can you provide a specific example of what a tenure teacher enjoys vs. a non-tenure teacher?


"I hope this helps eliminate some of your obvious misunderstandings" -- Thanks.  Not so much "misunderstanding" as much a it is "no understanding".  Oddly I've never had any close friends that were teachers where this subject came up.  And I thank you for sharing with me and anyone else that might not have a good understanding.

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