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HILLSVILLE — Temptation to balance budgets by cutting teachers may be too great without the protection of tenure, Carroll School Board members discussed at their January meeting on Monday.
That’s one reason the school board approved a resolution of support Jan. 7 to oppose the General Assembly taking away continuing contract protections from Virginia teachers.
School Board Chairman Brian Spencer said he has learned a lot during his first year in his elected position, and that information made him change his stance on the issue of tenure, he said at the meeting.
“Before I was elected on the school board, I would say, ‘No, as a citizen I’m not for supporting continuing contracts,’” the chairman noted.
Recently, in his business experience as manager of a Shoney’s restaurant, Spencer explained that a [non-local] newspaper that he advertises with fired the higher-paid employees in each position in order to cut costs. The resulting change in personnel had a negative impact on his business relationship with that unspecified newspaper.
“Since then, I’ve received subpar ads,” Spencer explained.
He could see governments applying the same logic to teachers to make a locality’s budget balance — teachers who have dedicated 25 or 30 years of their lives to children while receiving only incremental pay increases.
“And then you could have a bureaucracy come in [and say], ‘We need to slash $2 million from the budget,’” Spencer hypothesized.
He fears that the government could look at a teacher who’s around 60 years old, cut that person and replace them with two brand new hires straight out of college to save money. “I don’t know of any politician that I trust right now” not to do that.
School Board Member Reggie Gardner made a motion to approve a resolution supporting continuing contracts for teachers, which School Board Member Sandy Hendrick seconded.
The school board members had a month to mull this matter over after first being approached by Carroll Education Association President Keith Hommema in December.
“In 1968, the General Assembly adopted continuing contract laws establishing uniform employment practices, delineating causes for teacher dismissal and providing employment security for teachers after a three-year probationary period,” the resolution said.
After 40 years in education, Gardner explained at January’s meeting that he’s witnessed cases where abuses would have happened if tenure hadn’t been in place.
Salary may be one reason for it, but another example may be a teacher having a different way of thinking than a superior, he explained.
While there might be some problems with tenure, it gives educators time to weed out the bad teachers from the good, Gardner said. Administrators use that time to make the best decision possible.
“We have three years for school administration to determine whether a teacher is going to make it or not,” he said.
Maybe a compromise is changing the three-year window, Spencer said. He hopes that legislators won’t try to cut off discussion before talking the matter out.
“I’m just afraid, especially in these economic times, that people would be abused,” he added.
Doing away with tenure would be a “radical solution,” Spencer feels.
Other bills being introduced in the legislature on the same issue aren’t as drastic, Carroll Schools Superintendent Strader Blankenship said. “To me, the implication of this is that you cannot take out a bad teacher because they’re tenured and that’s just not true.”
Sometimes it takes new teachers a little while to get their footing in the classroom, but then they go on to be excellent educators, the superintendent stressed.
Every once in a while, you will find an individual who’s not cut out to be a teacher. Blankenship thinks of it as a favor to them to allow that person a chance to find a career that does suit.
The resolution of support says that continuing contract laws benefits all Virginians by, among other things: “attracting talented individuals to secure professional employment”; assuring stable and consistent instruction provided by teachers not subject to arbitrary dismissal; “fostering professional experience and subject understanding with teachers protected from replacement based on cost.”
The school board approved the resolution of support unanimously.