A hot-button political issue in Raleigh, teacher tenure is often misunderstood, school officials say.
State lawmakers voted last year to end teacher tenure in 2018. On Wednesday Senate Republicans proposed keeping it, but offering a raise to experienced teachers who give-up the career-status.
Critics claim teacher tenure makes it nearly impossible for school districts to fire bad teachers, but Mark Pasier, Brunswick County Schools' human resources director, says that's just not true.
He explains tenure, which teachers can earn after four years on the job, ensures they receive due process before being terminating.
"Probably the most common perception is that teachers have a job for life no matter what they do or what they don't do. That's not the case," Pasier said. "We as school systems and teachers as a profession want to be held accountable."
North Carolina law allows a school district to terminate a tenured employee for a number of reasons including, inadequate performance, immorality, insubordination and "habitual or excessive use of alcohol."
Before recommending to the school board that a teacher be fired, a superintendent must meet with the employee and give written notice of the charges.
The teacher can then choose to have a hearing before the school board or go before a hearing officer – an attorney approved by the State Board of Education.
The officer presides over a private hearing during which the superintendent and the teacher can call witnesses. Both sides have up to eight hours to present their case.
The hearing officer determines whether the superintendent's recommendation for termination is justified.
The school board must accept the hearing officer's findings of fact unless a majority of the board determines the findings aren't supported by enough evidence.
In some cases, tenured employees have the right to appeal the board's decision in superior court.
"The process works for both parties," Pasier said. "The administration and school board have a series of steps they are responsible to put in place, and I think the reasons those steps are there, are valid reasons."
Pasier explained the uncertainty over tenure is part of the reason teachers in his district are leaving the profession or taking jobs in South Carolina.
The North Carolina Association of Educators is pushing back against the Senate's tenure proposal.
"There is no need to intimidate and silence the voices of teachers by taking away their right to a hearing before termination," said NCAE President Rodney Ellis. "This debate over the future of public education would be completely different if all the teachers who have written letters to the editor and letters to their legislators were afraid of losing their jobs."
New Hanover, Bladen, Brunswick, and Columbus counties have not terminated any tenured teachers this year, district representatives reported Thursday.
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