Taking aim at tenure law

David Broyles

February 8, 2014

Surry County School officials and local teachers might not like state legislation aimed at ending teacher tenure, but they are are trying to take a different approach to addressing the General Assembly’s decision than some of their counterparts elsewhere.

In July, lawmakers passed a budget bill to abolish career status for teachers. Lawmakers devised a system to replace career status which puts teachers on one-, two-, or four-year contracts. This bill requires local superintendents to offer the option to give up their tenure and accept a four-year contract to 25 percent of teachers. Teachers who choose to participate could come away with a $5,000 pay increase spread out over the next four years.

Across the state, some teachers have called for protests and, at one point, even a teacher walkout over the move.

During an informal meeting in Pages Books & Coffee on Main Street in Mount Airy on Thursday evening, Liesa Hawks, president of the Surry County chapter of the North Carolina Education Association, talked with other association representatives. She told them she had been informed by Rodney Ellis, state president of the association, there had been no action on a lawsuit brought against the proposal, so efforts to force change that way had resulted in “a holding pattern.”

“I think Surry County has taken a different approach than the more negative approaches out there,” said Hawks. “The goal of the (career status) lawsuit is to get the General Assembly to change their minds.” She explained the NCAE campaign has been titled “decline to sign” and urges teachers to not “shame or fight with those who have a different opinion” or “diminish innovation and collaboration in teaching strategies due to this plan.”

“It’s a law, not an option. It’s the legislature, not our local board of education or superintendent,” said Hawks. She explained how a committee of members including county teachers of the year had been formed by Superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves to determine how to select teachers to be given offered the four-year contract agreement.

Earlier in the week, Reeves told the county Board of Education that committee had formed a sub-committee which agreed the policy should reward the best teaching in schools

Hawks said she liked the subcommittee approach which looked at factors including the district’s mission, criteria for accomplished and distinguished teachers status and focusing on positive attributes in education as a way to make the selection. She said local association representatives drafting leaflets and presentations to be available as early as Feb. 10 for association members and be available to fellow educators and support personnel.

“We want to encourage our members to look at the information on this and educate themselves, to read up so they can make the best decision for them. We can help get information out there and that’s what we are going to get down to doing,” Hawks said.

David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.