Board weighs ending teacher tenure

Published 9:17 pm Friday, November 9, 2012

At a special called meeting this week, the Beaufort County Board of Education discussed putting an end to teacher tenure.
The board was asked by the North Carolina School Board Association to send delegates to next week’s annual conference with the board’s preference of two options: Should the association support the loss of tenure for new hires and grandfather in those who have already earned tenure or recommend ending tenure across the board?
Board member Terry Williams disagreed with both options. He said he really hated when groups gave him two options instead of asking for his opinion.
“Even in the face of defeat, I should be able to stand my ground. I make a motion that we don’t agree to either of these options and we send a note back that tenure should stay as it is,” Williams said.
The motion did not pass. Board member E.C. Peed was the only member to vote with Williams.
Board vice chair Cindy Winstead said teachers were the only profession protected by tenure. It gave teachers freedom to teach the way they wanted, but that freedom would be there regardless.
Board member Robert Belcher said he agreed with Williams’ sentiments, but wanted the board to save whatever could be saved, i.e. grandfather in tenured teachers.
Belcher was a school principal when principal tenure was eliminated. He said he could see both sides of the argument. Getting rid of tenure might protect the schools from bad teachers, but keeping it protected good teachers from bad bosses.
Board member Mike Isbell said he understood the harm a bad teacher could have on a student.
“I’m married to a teacher. I know of students who have been virtually set back seriously… in their academic progress by a really poor teacher who just could not be removed,” he said.
Superintendent Don Phipps and assistant superintendent John Conway said tenure no longer protected teachers from being terminated. As long as the school district followed appropriate steps, any teacher could be dismissed.
“I feel like we’ve got tools. We’ve got the ability. It’s not easy, but it can be done,” Phipps said.
Williams said that was his issue with being asked about eliminating tenure.
“You can get rid of a teacher if you want to. This is just to help people who don’t want to do their jobs,” he said.
The association addressed the subject because they could “see the writing on the wall,” Phipps said.
The state Senate introduced the elimination of teacher tenure in last spring’s Excellent Public Schools Act. Once it passed its third reading, the House got the bill and referred it to the committee on education.
The board moved to recommend grandfathering in those who had already achieved tenure.
Williams was the sole opposing vote.