Teachers in Durham can receive longer employment contracts under a new policy approved by the school board Thursday night.
The new policy approved by the Durham Public Schools Board of Education goes into effect July 1 and it reflects a statewide change that allows school districts to now offer multi-year contracts to teachers who have not obtained “career status,” also known as tenure.
North Carolina school districts could only offer one-year contracts after state lawmakers eliminated teacher tenure in 2013. But in 2016, the N.C. Supreme Court struck down the law that phased out tenure for those teachers who had already earned it. So, teachers with career status will maintain their career status.
Not all teachers, however, affected by the policy will receive multi-year contracts. Those contracts can go to teachers without “career status,” deemed “proficient on all standards” and who have three or more consecutive years of service. Teachers with less than three years of service will only be eligible for one-year contracts.
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Here are the highlights of the policy the school board approved: Teachers in their first three years with Durham Public Schools will be offered a one-year renewable contract.
▪ Teachers who have not obtained career status with DPS, and who have been employed by DPS for at least three consecutive years, will be offered a four-year contract if they are “proficient” on all standards on the two most recent annual evaluations and are in “good standing.”
▪ In order to be eligible for more than a one-year contract, a teacher must have been employed by DPS as a teacher for three consecutive years immediately prior to the offer of a multi-year contract.
▪ Teachers with career status with Durham Public Schools will maintain career status.
Teachers will be considered in “good standing” if they have not been place on a mandatory improvement plan at any time during the school year or received a written reprimand or warning, a demotion, suspension without pay or other documented disciplinary action.
The DPS administration had recommended that veteran teachers with three or more consecutive years who are deemed proficient be granted two-year contracts but increased it to four to remain competitive with neighboring districts.
Arasi Adkins, the districts assistant superintendent for human resources, said a recent survey that included several neighboring districts found that 30 percent of respondents are offering four-year contracts, the same as recommended by DPS.
“Some of our neighboring districts and other large districts like Chapel-Hill Carrboro, Winston-Salem, Guilford, Chatham County, Alamance, Burlington, they’re all using this recommended change as well,” Adkins said. “We just want to remain competitive in our recruitment and hiring.”
In Wake County, the school board is considering a policy to offer teachers with three or more consecutive years and who are in good standing two-year contracts. After teachers in good standing have completed two-year contracts, they would be eligible for four-year rolling contracts.
School board Chairman Mike Lee asked if it was a “bad thing” if after three consecutive years on the job, a teacher was not offered a four-year contract.
Superintendent Pascal Mubenga said that would indicate that the teacher is struggling to meet the standards.
“So, we’re not going to give that teacher a four-year contract,” Mubenga said. “Either one year with support or we have to find another exit way for you.”
School board member Steve Unruhe, a retired teacher, said he’d be concerned about the evaluative process if the district handed out four-year contracts to a lot of young teachers after they completed three consecutive years of service.
“If it’s done well, then there should be a fair number of teachers, certainly younger teachers, who hit the three-year mark and are not automatically rolled into a four-year contract,” Unruhe said. “Frankly, it takes longer than three years for many of our teachers to reach the level we want them to reach. To me that [not receiving a four-year contract] should not be a negative. The negative should be, you’re not renewed.”
In 2013, state lawmakers argued that tenure gave teachers greater job protection than workers in other professions, which made it hard to get rid of teachers not performing up to expectation.
Teachers who have tenure can still be fired for 15 reasons under state law, including inadequate performance, immorality, neglect of duty and a reduction in a district’s teaching force.