Durham News

Durham school board to discuss top 25 percent teacher contracts

Durham Public Schools teachers call planned state contracts that will reward only the top 25 percent of teachers with raises, “divisive” and “unconstitutional,” saying they will pit teachers against one another.

Last week, a group of teachers, parents, and students held a press conference at the DPS Fuller Building to ask district leaders and the school board to call upon state leaders to rethink the new compensation plan, which they say they will not sign if offered.

The Guilford County school board took a similar stand two weeks ago when its members voted unanimously to challenge the law. The Guilford County Board of Education also plans to sue the state.

The law offers certain teachers contracts in exchange for their tenure, which all teachers are expected to lose in 2016. It is also intended to promote competition and get rid of teachers, who student test scores show are underperforming.

Under the law, the superintendent will identify and recommend to the school board 25 percent of those teachers employed by the board for at least three consecutive years to be awarded four-year contracts beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

The $500 is added to the teacher’s base salary every year for the four years.

“Schools across North Carolina rightfully take pride in naming teachers of the year, who are positive role models and leaders in their local communities,” state Sen. Phil Berger, who helped pass the law, said in a statement this month. “Likewise, we should embrace the opportunity to recognize and reward more of our top-performing teachers who make a lasting impact on the lives of their students, while promoting greater student achievement.”

The board is expected to discuss the proposal at the board meeting on Thursday. School board chairwoman Heidi Carter said the board would have to talk to its lawyers before taking any action against the law.

Teachers across the district have written a letter opposing the contracts. The letter to the board stated “We join educators at Club Boulevard Elementary, and other schools across the Durham and North Carolina, in believing, without any doubt or hesitation, that giving tenure bonuses to 25 percent of our faculty is 100 percent misguided.”

“We believe that the improvement of teacher quality and of public schools can only come through meaningful support for all teachers, not through divisive and inconsequential ‘honors’ for a few,” the letter states.

Nicholas Grace-Gaber, a teacher at Hillside High School, said most of the teachers at his school have signed the letter.

“(The state) is saying they don’t value all teachers,” Grace-Gaber said. “It sends a message that most teachers are not high quality.”

He said Gov. McCrory’s new plan to give only starting teachers raises is a political move.

Beginning teachers will make the same as veteran teachers.

“All of these things undermine public education,” Grace-Gaber said. “It’s insulting to think that by throwing money our way that we're going to forget about it.”