The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board spent an hour last night hashing through the state law that phases out teacher tenure.
The gist boils down to three words: What a mess.
The law, passed this summer, requires school districts to offer four-year contracts that include $500-a-year raises to 25 percent of teachers who have worked three consecutive years and earned "proficient" job ratings. Teachers who accept those contracts have to voluntarily sign away their "career status" rights, which will disappear for all teachers in 2018.
Districts across the state have spent the ensuing months grappling with how to put that into practice, looking at everything from who qualifies as a teacher to how you choose one in four without getting sued, Superintendent Heath Morrison and CMS lawyer Jonathan Sink told the board. (Read the presentation here.)
"It is one of the most complicated pieces of legislation I have ever seen," Morrison said.
Ellis-Stewart is a Democrat, and the 25 percent law is a creation of the Republican-dominated state legislature. But frustration on the local board was bipartisan.
Vice chair Tim Morgan, a Republican, noted that teachers have vowed to fight the law in court. "I hold no animosity toward the teachers who are going to be bringing the lawsuit," Morgan said, looking at a handful of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators officers in the audience.
Morrison repeatedly told the board he believes lawmakers' intentions were good, but said the plan is rife with confusion and unintended consequences.
Sink said several lawmakers have told him their intent was to reward and motivate classroom teachers. But the state attorney general has ruled that the legal definition of "teacher" includes other certified people in instructional roles, such as counselors, social workers, media specialists (aka librarians) and deans of students. In CMS that's more than 10,000 people.
Once you rule out those who haven't worked three consecutive years, you're looking at more than 6,000. CMS currently has 5,789 "teachers" who meet the three-year requirement and have no rating lower than proficient, HR Chief Terri Cockerham said.
The district calculates that 25 percent of eligible teachers will come to about 1,500 people who will be offered the contract and raise. And that poses the central question: How do you sort the 25 percent who get the offer from the 75 percent who don't?
The obvious method, taking those with the highest ratings, won't work. The district calculated that 45 percent of teachers have no rating below advanced or distinguished, which are higher than proficient. Morrison noted that a literal reading of the law, which says no teachers can get the contract offer unless they've shown effectiveness "as demonstrated by proficiency on the teacher evaluation" might eliminate those who are above proficient, though the legislators clearly intended proficiency to be the minimum.
CMS administrators and teachers are looking at other criteria, such as National Board Certification, attendance records and the difficulty of filling the positions. Morgan, who is on the board of the N.C. School Boards Association, said some districts have considered offering the contracts to the most experienced eligible teachers, while others say it makes more sense to offer them to the newest and lowest-paid in hopes of enticing them to stay.
So what comes next? This post is running long, so come back tomorrow for a look at the race against the clock.