Wake County teachers will likely get longer contracts, but not tenure

From left, River Bend Elementary kindergarten teacher Valerie Minervini leads her students in a morning counting song on Sept. 15, 2016.
From left, River Bend Elementary kindergarten teacher Valerie Minervini leads her students in a morning counting song on Sept. 15, 2016. 2016 N&O file photo

Teachers in Wake County schools would have more than a year’s worth of job security under a new plan for contracts.

The Wake school board’s policy committee on Tuesday reviewed a policy proposal for multi-year teacher contracts. Since North Carolina lawmakers eliminated teacher tenure in 2013, school districts could only offer one-year contracts until July 2018.

Now, districts are responsible for determining their own teacher contract process. Here’s how it could work in Wake:

▪ Teachers who have worked in Wake County schools for less than three consecutive years would receive a one-year contract.

▪ Teachers who have worked in Wake for three or more consecutive years and are in good standing would receive a two-year contract.

▪ Teachers who have completed the two-year contract and are in good standing would receive a four-year rolling contract. At the end of the first year of the contract, teachers would be eligible for a one-year extension. They would then be eligible for a one-year extension each subsequent year as long as they are in good standing.

Teachers are considered in good standing if they are rated “proficient” in their two most recent annual evaluations; aren’t on an improvement plan; haven’t received a disciplinary action in the last two years; and have no other “relevant performance or conduct information” that would disqualify them from receiving a contract.

School board member Jim Martin, who teaches at N.C. State University, said longer contracts will help give teachers the respect they lost when the legislature eliminated tenure.

“Career status means a lot to an educator because you get so few other benefits, and the pay is not that great,” Martin said. “It really is a symbol of respect. That’s why the removal of career status was a removal of respect to the teaching position.”

Members of the board’s policy committee talked about possibly allowing teachers with prior experience outside Wake to move straight to four-year contracts after working for three consecutive years.

Board member Kathy Hartenstine, a former Wake County teacher and principal, said allowing experienced teachers to move to the four-year rolling contract more quickly would serve as a recruitment tool.

“At one time, when you came from out of district into Wake County and you were phenomenal, you could regain that career status after one year,” she said. “I left Durham County and came to Wake County, knowing that I only had one year and then I would be basically reinstated to career status. That meant a lot to me.”

Before 2013, all teachers had one-year contracts until they successfully completed four years and received career status, also known as tenure.

The change in state law got rid of tenure for teachers who hadn’t earned it by Aug. 1, 2013. It also limited teachers without tenure to one-year contracts until July 1, 2018.

State lawmakers have argued that tenure gives teachers greater job protections than workers in other professions. They say the new rules let each school district decide how to develop contracts instead of relying on state mandates.

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.

Pressley Baird: 919-829-8935, @pressleybaird