Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials are hustling to name the 25 percent of teachers who qualify for small state raises by the June deadline, but they say they expect -- even hope for -- last-minute changes.
This summer, the state legislature ordered school districts across North Carolina to select 25 percent of the teachers who meet experience and proficiency standards and offer them four-year contracts and $500-a-year raises. It's part of a plan to phase out teacher tenure, or career status, by 2018. (Read the CMS presentation here.)
CMS recently polled teachers on options for making the selection and plans to analyze the results before winter break. In January, Superintendent Heath Morrison will bring the school board his plan for making the cut, and in May he'll bring them the list of names as required by law.
Meanwhile, CMS lawyer Jonathan Sink said he's been talking with legislators about some of the unintended consequences of the mandate, and they may be willing to tinker and clarify in 2014. But the session doesn't start until May, which means any state changes would come as local districts are wrapping up their process.
For teachers there's another time pressure: If they're offered the four-year contract, they have to decide whether to sign away their rights to career status. The law passed this summer says that protection will go away for everyone in 2018, when those four-year contracts expire. State lawmakers have appointed a task force to look at performance pay and other compensation and recruitment issues. But for now, nobody knows what will replace the current system.
Several teachers have said it would be foolish to sign away career status protection for an uncertain future. The N.C. Association of Educators is reportedly planning a lawsuit to challenge the elimination of tenure.
Morrison acknowledged the likelihood that a significant number of teachers who get the contract offers will say no. He said the district's interpretation of the state mandate is that once the teachers who make up the 25 percent are chosen, the list can't be expanded. That means the actual number getting contracts and raises could end up well below 25 percent, he told the board.
CMS has more than 10,000 employees who qualify as teachers under the state definition (which includes licensed support staff such as counselors and librarians), and almost 6,000 who meet the state eligibility standard of proficient job ratings and three consecutive years of employment. According to this week's presentation, that means CMS will be able to offer contracts to about 1,500 people.