The Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County this week was schooled on a new state law that will replace tenure for teachers in favor of contracts and bonuses.
Let’s just say that board members were less than pleased, with one asking the public to remember the names of the legislators who supported the change when they go to cast ballots.
Johnny Hunt, the schools superintendent, was blunt in his assessment.
“This is an educational nightmare. It’s going to cause division in every county in the state,” Hunt said. “We’re hoping this is going to be changed.”
A rollback of the legislation is unlikely with the current General Assembly, which is controlled by Republicans who believe the educational system in this state has been broken for years and was in need of reform. They are supported by a like-minded governor — and decades of data that show the state’s schools are failing its students in the primary and secondary grades.
Hunt and fellow administrators have been tasked with a tough assignment, identifying the top 25 percent of about 1,200 teachers who would be signed to four-year contracts and receive yearly bonuses. It is, at best, a subjective call — and in this county will provoke calls of racism, nepotism and cronyism even if it were perfectly accomplished, which, of course, can’t be achieved.
Hence the division that Hunt predicted as being inevitable.
The goal of the Republicans, which is accountability, we find noble. There are, like in all professions, poor teachers and every effort should be made to remove them from the classrooms.
Those who support this educational reform says tenure protects poor teachers, and doesn’t do enough to reward good ones. Defenders of the status quo counter that our teachers are under attack, that in North Carolina they continue to lag behind their peers in other states when it comes to pay, and the loss of tenure will likely push some across the border and into other states. Robeson County, with South Carolina next door, would be vulnerable to such an exodus.
The truth is evidence can be cherry-picked to support both sides of this important conversation.
Change seldom comes easily, so the protests were expected. Like it or not, it is up to our school board and administrators to carry out this assignment to the best of their ability.
Only after that happens can the value of this legislation be fairly judged. What can’t be tolerated is for the predictors of gloom to enable their prophecy to be self-fulfilling.