Debate over teacher tenure changes still raging.
The Macon County Board of Education opened its February meeting by recognizing young writers who have been honored on the state level. Every year Western Mountains Reading Council participates with the North Carolina Reading Association to sponsor the Young Author Writing Project. WMRC is allowed to send in 20 of Macon County’s best local entries.
This year’s theme was "Happily Ever After,” and encouraged students to write a song, poem, story or book that speaks of a bright future or someone who encourages them to keeping working toward a goal, pointing to a "happy ending."
State winners include:
Myah Baird - Macon Early College
Sarah Baird - Macon Middle School
Chloe Breedlove - Mountain View Intermediate
Kierra Dawn Wilson Love - Macon Middle School
Katy Munoz - Highlands School
Vanessa Murphy - Macon Middle School
Taj Roman - Highlands School
Dakota Sherburn - Highlands School
Breanna - Teague - Union Academy
Colin Weller - Highlands School
“We are also allowed to enter a council choice award if we have an outstanding entry,” explained Diane Cotton, Young Author Chairperson for the WMRC. “This year we did award that to Breanna Teague at Union Academy for her entry 'The Grandeur of a Dogwood.' In addition, council members are encouraged to enter their writing in the Forever Young category. This year we had one member win at the state level—Joan Gurtler. The local judging was completed in November. The entries are then sent to the state and those are judged in late January.”
On March 13, WMRC will have a Young Author celebration at Angel Hospital cafeteria to award medals and trophies to the local and state winners. The winners will be able to read their stories/poems to the audience.
On March 15, all state winners are invited to Raleigh to receive their awards and a copy of the book in which their entry was published.
Tenure debate continues
Macon County Educator Darlene Fromknecht spoke to the board of education involving her stance against the state mandate of awarding only 25 percent of teachers a four-year contract and $500 bonus in exchange of the relinquishing of tenure status.
Fromknecht informed the board that 100 percent of teachers at seven out of the nine school sites in the district, and 94 percent at Franklin High School, signed a petition urging the board of education to pass a resolution to the state voicing opposition to the state regarding the teacher tenure changes.
“The teachers in our county are committed to developing all of our students into thoughtful and responsible life-long learners,” said Fromknecht. “We devote our full intellectual abilities to providing high-quality instruction that not only builds students intellect, but their character as well. We seek to maintain positive relationships with all of our families at our school and we recognize the intrinsic worth of every student and every family. We are colleagues and collaborators who work together to help our students succeed. We believe, without any doubt or hesitation, that asking 25 percent of our teachers to forfeit their career status in exchange for a small bonus is 100 percent misguided. We believe that the improvement of teacher quality and of public schools can only come through meaningful support of all teachers.”
Fromknecht told the board that policies such as the new teacher tenure law changes that are intended to weed out the bad teachers, are eroding the professionalism of teachers across the county.
Macon County is not the only district in the state struggling with the legislation changes. Guilford County, which oversees a district of 72,000 students, unanimously voted to reject the law entirely.
According to Fromknecht, 11 districts across the state have passed resolutions pleading the state to abolish the new mandate and allow the district to use the funds allocated for the law in other ways.
Board Chairman Jim Breedlove lead the charge to direct school attorney John Henning Jr. to draft a resolution similar to the other 11 counties in the state to send to lawmakers urging them to reconsider the legislation.
Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin stated that while he commends Guilford County in their stance against the law, he does not believe that Macon County can refuse to implement the legislation. “We cannot ignore the law,” said Baldwin.
Dr. Baldwin presented the school board with survey results regarding the districts stance on their proposed options in identifying the 25 percent of teachers who should be awarded the contracts.
Of the three options presented, 49.6 percent or 68 of the 137 teachers who took the survey, suggested that a random district-wide lottery be used to select the 25 percent. The survey was sent to all teachers, regardless if they were eligible for consideration of the 25 percent or not.
The board agreed to continue consideration on the subject including whether or not to offer teachers an opt-out option regarding the 25 percent process all together. An opt-out option would allow teachers to sign a waiver saying they do not want to be considered at all for the 25 percent, regardless of eligibility. By allowing those teachers to opt-out, teachers who may be in a financial hardship and willing to take the contract, will have a better chance of begin selected.
Fromknecht noted that an opt-out option would prevent teachers from being able to turn down the contract, which she believes will send a stronger message to the state. Breedlove explained that while the opt-out option could be a possibility, teachers could choose whether or not they want to be considered and then if selected, turn the contract down then if they desire.
The board agreed to continue evaluating the information they have been given, and will revisit the topic during its March meeting. All contracts must be offered and accepted by June 30, giving the school board a few more months to consider what action to take.