DSA teachers join pledge against contracts

Jan. 21, 2014 @ 02:45 PM

More teachers in Durham Public Schools are pledging to turn down offers of four-year contracts and annual bonuses in exchange for relinquishing their tenure.

Teachers at Durham School of the Art have drafted and signed a letter vowing to not accept the bonuses or four-year contracts if they are among the 25 percent of teachers in the district chosen to receive them under a new state law to end teacher tenure.

Martha Ramirez, who teaches English as a second language at DSA, said teachers at the school are part of a growing movement to push back against the Republican-led General Assembly’s effort to end teacher tenure in the state.

“Taking away tenure is a slap in the face, along with many others,” Ramirez said. “It’s divisive. That’s our No. 1 objection.”

Under the new rules, school districts are required to offer the top 25 percent of teachers four-year contracts and modest bonuses for those who agree to give up tenure before 2018, when tenure will be eliminated for all teachers.

The DPS Board of Education and others across the state have adopted resolutions asking the General Assembly to repeal the law critics contend forces teachers fired or disciplined to give up due process rights.

DSA’s letter is similar to one drafted by teachers at Club Boulevard Humanities Magnet School, where all but one of the school’s 28 teachers pledged to turn down bonuses if offered.

“We are colleagues and collaborators working together to help our students succeed, and we believe, without doubt or hesitation, that giving tenure bonuses to 25 percent of our faculty is 100 percent misguided,” Club Boulevard teachers agreed in the letter.

Ramirez said several other schools across the district have drafted letters based on the one Club Boulevard teachers presented to the school board in December.

She said she hopes 100 percent of DSA teachers will sign the letter, saying the sentiment throughout the district seems to be “overwhelming” in favor of the position the letter takes against four-year contracts and bonuses.

“I think it [support] is pretty widespread,” Ramirez said.

She said the letters would likely be delivered to the school board as a symbolic gesture in advance of a statewide “Day of Action” planned for Feb. 5.

The DSA letter, states that the teachers at the school believe it is impossible to fairly identify the “top 25 percent” of teachers.

It says competition has no place in school settings where teachers should collaborate to provide the best possible education for students.

“Instead of competing against my colleagues, I stand with them,” the letter said. “If eligible and selected to receive it, I respectfully decline to sign the offer forfeiting due process rights in exchange for a four-year contract and accompanying bonuses.”