Orange County Schools will adopt a new policy for teacher contracts that will give teachers who have worked in the district for at least three years increased job security, following approval from the Board of Education in early February.
The new policy will offer non-career status teachers either a one-year or four-year contract, said Teresa Cunningham-Brown, chief human resources officer for the school district. Any teacher who has been employed by the district for less than three years may only receive a one-year employment contract, but teachers with at least three years in the district who are also in good standing will receive a four-year contract.
“It excites me that this particular policy would be able to allow us to be really in the forefront of some of our neighboring districts with regards to how soon we’d be able to offer contracts to our teachers,” Cunningham-Brown said.
Non-career status teachers are teachers who do not have tenure — a guaranteed, standing contract with the system. State lawmakers eliminated teacher tenure for teachers who had not obtained it by Aug. 1, 2013, so school districts are only be able to offer one-year contracts until July 1, 2018, due to the change in state law. This gives school districts across the state the ability to individually determine what their teacher contract policy will be after July 1, hence the new policy by Orange County Schools.
Cunningham-Brown said the human resources team for the district solicited feedback from multiple stakeholder groups when creating the new policy, including Superintendent Todd Wirt, a teacher advisory committee and North Carolina Association of Educators members. The staff also presented the draft policy to teachers at their respective schools for full feedback.
“It’s flexible; it’s teacher-friendly,” she said.
To be considered for a four-year contract, the teacher must be considered in good standing and have two years of evaluations to qualify, said Jonathan Blumberg, lead board attorney for the district’s Board of Education. The district is defining good standing to mean the teacher should at least be proficient in their last two evaluations to receive a multi-year contract. But, if a teacher doesn’t have those two years of evaluations, the district is willing to work with them.
“There are times where for whatever reason — changeover, transition, whatever it might be — that all the evaluations don’t get done,” Blumberg said.
In light of this possibility, the policy contains a footnote that states if the district cannot find an evaluation from two years prior, they will go back one more year. If they still can’t find an evaluation, they will only use the current evaluation rather than two.
“The thought would be that it should be done in a way that doesn’t penalize the teacher,” Blumberg said.
Before adopting this policy, the school board had the option of choosing to offer two-year contracts before allowing four-year contracts, but they decided to offer four-year contracts as soon as the teacher is eligible for multi-year contracts — after three years of employment. This was done for recruitment and retention purposes, said Blumberg.
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