Durham school board joins teacher tenure lawsuit

Posted March 5, 2014

— Durham school board members voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to join a lawsuit over a state budget provision eliminating "career status" protections afforded to veteran teachers.

“If the governor and the North Carolina General Assembly won’t stand up for our children's teachers, then we will,” said Heidi Carter, Durham school board chairwoman. "This 25 percent mandate is not about rewarding excellence in teaching. It's about coercing teachers to give up a right they've justly earned. And that's a right to salary protection and a right to due process."

Durham will join a soon-to-be-filed lawsuit by Guilford County Schools asking for an injunction preventing school districts from implementing the provision. A separate lawsuit has been filed against the measure by the North Carolina Association of Educators. The statewide teacher group has also led a “decline to sign” campaign asking teachers to not support the provision.

Lawmakers asked school districts to identify their top 25 percent of high-performing teachers and offer them a new four year contract with a $500 annual salary increase. In exchange, those teachers lose their tenure.The pay provision, included in the state budget last July, aims to reward teachers based on performance instead of having a tenure system that authors of the measure say "fosters mediocrity and discourages excellence."

"Career status," or teacher tenure, does not prevent a school board from firing a teacher, board member Leigh Boardley said.

"What career status provides for teachers, among other things, is their right to due process," she said. "Their right to a hearing if they are fired. I think that's a really reasonable thing for our staff to get for the hard work that they give us."

Durham's vote comes one day after the Wake County school board passed a three page resolution asking state lawmakers to repeal the provision. The state’s largest school district also plans to discuss the legislation with state legislative leaders. They currently do not plan to join any lawsuits.

North Carolina teachers currently reach "career status" after four years on the job. Afterwards, they can’t be dismissed without a specific due process.

Teachers are paid, in part, by seniority. Their pay scale is determined by state legislators. Some school districts augment pay for their teachers.

The budget provision eliminates tenure, or "career status," by 2018.

Carter, the Durham school board chairwoman, described the measure as "destructive for public education" and "disrespectful for teachers." She hopes more school districts will join the lawsuit.

"We felt very strongly that we wanted to stand by our convictions and do what was right," Carter said. "We are not thinking about politics right now. We are thinking about the children in this community and our employees who work hard for them every single day that's what we had in the forefront of our minds in this decision."


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  • barbstillkickin Mar 7, 2014

    Teachers are our children's future but when you teach at a school with a very low student ability to even try to learn or parents who blame teachers and then these teachers who can be some of the states best teachers are not given raises because the test scores are not as good as other schools. This is not only unfair but prejudice against teachers who have amazing teaching abilities. Teachers should be given raises based on their teaching abilities not the students grades. Some schools just have kids who have no desire to try. I know this because my neighbor teaches at one of them and she is a great teacher.

  • Da Toy Maker Mar 6, 2014

    " Stilllearnin Mar 6, 1:09 p.m.

    "For those said make the teachers just like working in private sector, I think teachers would be delighted to be able negotiate their pay with the school based on market & demand."

    Sounds as though you want a union negotiation. Most employers don't negotiate salaries or pay raises unless it "

    As I was saying, you need to understand how private sector work. Yes, for majority of people, they are happy to stay at a place to get a pay check and what ever the employer gives as pay raise. Have you heard or know many cases employers matching or offer higher salary to keep an employee? If you haven't, I don't see a point and arguing with you. Union negotiate pay for everyone in the union. It is two different things, dude! Oh yes, I have seen people leaving their jobs for lower pay ones to be happy. How long do you think we could keep on going down this path before we DO see critical teacher shortage??

  • glarg Mar 6, 2014

    You have to love the fact that there are three people in the room.

    Thats how much anyone cares about protecting lousy teachers.

  • Doug Pawlak Mar 6, 2014
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    Most people care about education. Why don't you?

  • 678devilish Mar 6, 2014

    If any teacher was not doing their job, why were they permitted to stay as long as they did? Why all the tensure questions now? Many teachers are finding jobs else where even out of state.

  • 678devilish Mar 6, 2014

    Without these wonderful outstanding teachers who will teach the kids IF there is NO ONE there for them?

  • Greg Boop Mar 6, 2014
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    Any time you fire an employ you have better be managing within the law and following due process. "Career Status" simply means that the teacher is entitled to a hearing to be sure they were not fired for political reasons - like teaching evolution in a Biology class. Career Status does not protect you from being fired for poor performance.

    The real problem is that the state Republicans are trying to make all teachers be contractors on one year contracts with no career protection whatsoever - this is why they are trying to get rid of "tenure" or "career status" which blocks this objective where every teacher will be fired every year (and then possibly re-hired).

  • Greg Boop Mar 6, 2014
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    The big deal is that the state Republicans want to implement a system where every teacher is on a one year contract and fired at the end of every school year. They may or may not be re-hired for the next year. This means the teachers get no due process when they are let go and have zero job protection.

    How about we fire you from your private sector job each year, and then decide whether to hire you back. Basically make you a contract employee with no protections and treat you as a non-professional.

  • Terry Watts Mar 6, 2014
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    Hilarious... Do you not realize that Vouchers are paid by the tax-Payers, and that switching from the current system to a Vouchers system does nothing to alleviate any person's tax-burden... In other words, you will still be paying the same taxes - the only change will be mechanism that funnels tax-money into education...

  • Stilllearnin Mar 6, 2014

    "For those said make the teachers just like working in private sector, I think teachers would be delighted to be able negotiate their pay with the school based on market & demand."

    Sounds as though you want a union negotiation. Most employers don't negotiate salaries or pay raises unless it
    is a critical position. The majority get their pay raises by performance reviews based upon their performance