DPS will offer 355 new four-year contracts

Dec. 09, 2013 @ 07:08 PM

Durham Public Schools will offer 355 teachers and other school support personnel four-year contracts under a new law designed to end tenure in North Carolina’s public schools.

According to a report presented to the school board last week, the 355 teachers and support staffers represent 25 percent of the 1,422 people eligible for four-year contracts.

Of the 355 to be offered those contracts, the majority – 292 – will come from the ranks of the district’s 1,167 eligible teachers.

To qualify for the contracts, teachers and support staffers must be employed by DPS for at least three consecutive years and found to be proficient on their last two annual reviews.

Numerical values will be assigned to those evaluations and teachers and staff with the highest ratings will be offered four-year contracts sometime in the spring.

School officials must notify those chosen for contracts by June 30.

The school board is expected to consider the methodology for selecting those to be offered four-year contracts at its meeting Dec. 19.

Many of them expressed their dislike for the changes in tenure law at a board work session last week. 

School board chairwoman Heidi Carter asked if the district can simply choose not to accept the state money for pay increases.

“Are we even allowed to say ‘no thank you,’ we don’t want to accept this money?” Carter asked.

School board attorney Ken Soo reminded her the board has taken an oath to uphold the laws of the state.

“The law of the state is that you gotta offer these contracts to 25 percent of your teachers,” Soo said.

Responding to a school board members’ question, Tina Hester, the school district’s chief human resources officer, said only the people who fall within the initial 25 percent can be offered a four-year contract.

 “If someone rejects the offer, we can’t offer it to someone else because they are not in the 25 percent,” Hester said.

If a teacher of staffer is already tenured, they must agree to give it up in exchange for the four-year contract.

In return for accepting a four-year contract they will receive an extra $500 to their base salary each year of the contract.

All teachers who have not been granted tenure or “career status” as it is called before the 2013-14 school year, will be offered one year contracts under the new law.

Members of the Durham People’s Alliance attended the work session and urged the board to adopt a resolution asking the General Assembly to repeal the law, citing provisions that require teachers to give up employment and due process rights.

They also said the coming changes have the potential to divide teachers.

“I think the General Assembly has given us no money and a bunch of bad policies to enforce,” said Page McCullough, a member of the People’s Alliance Education Committee. “One of the worst is the requirement to give bonuses to only 25 percent of teachers. I believe this will be very divisive and suck the teamwork out of our schools.”

By the start of the 2018-19 school year, there will be not “career status” for anyone in the state’s public schools, and districts will only be allowed to offer one-year, two-year and four-year contracts.

The new pay-for-performance model as it is called by some was approved by the state’s Republican-led General Assembly in what many said is an attempt to make it easier to fire ineffective teachers.

Those opposed to law said the state already had an effective system to remove ineffective teachers.