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News State / Region Board of Education discusses new laws

A new gun law in North Carolina, which was approved by both the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory as House Bill 937, will now allow guns on school campuses. According to Macon County Schools attorney John Henning Jr., the bill, which is now G.S. 14-269.3, allows individuals with concealed-carry permits to bring their guns onto school campuses – from kindergarten to college – if they keep the weapons in a closed compartment in their locked vehicles.

"It is just crazy," said Henning Monday night. "It is a terrible idea and I don't care how pro-gun you are, it just doesn't make any sense."

School districts cannot make it illegal for individuals to bring guns to school campuses, but can create a policy that forbids such an action.

"I don't think that if the district comes up with their own policy regarding guns on campuses they would be violating any state law," said Henning. "It will not criminalize the behavior, but it will give the board authority to take disciplinary action if a situation does arise."

Board member Gary Shields noted that in North Carolina, individuals have to be at least 21 years old to carry a gun, which would prevent the law from allowing students to carry guns on campuses.

SRO Troy Burt, the Macon County Sheriff's Officer assigned to the meeting, pointed out that in the event he was called to respond to a situation involving guns at a school site, he would not take time to ask any individual carrying a gun if they were a criminal or a teacher.

The board unanimously agreed to direct Henning to begin drafting a board policy banning firearms from school campuses in Macon County.

New teacher tenure laws based on undetermined performance evaluations

Henning spoke to board members about the changes in teacher tenure at Monday night's meeting. North Carolina has begun an overhaul of the state's teacher tenure rules, mandating that school administrators identify the "top performing teachers" and offer them four-year contracts but only one-year contracts to everybody else.

Previously, teachers with five years of experience were eligible for tenure, which granted them a right to due process before dismissal. Under the changes, longer-term job security will be limited to the top 25 percent of teachers who are ranked most effective, based on criteria decided by each district's superintendent.

Henning stated that he was uncertain how Dr. Baldwin and other superintendents are going to identify the top 25 percent of teachers, which out of the district's 257 career teachers, would mean 67 are eligible under the new changes.

State lawmakers who pushed for the changes to the tenure structure said the old system allowed too many ineffective teachers to remain in classrooms.

Career status or tenure, previously stated that teachers could only be fired for a handful of reasons, including inadequate performance, neglect of duty, insubordination, physical or mental incapacity, and habitual alcohol abuse.

Now, those stipulations now longer exist and instead, the top 25 percent of teachers employed by a district for four or more years as of July 1, 2014, have the option of receiving merit pay based on their performance. The top 25 percent of teachers will be offered a four-year contract and a $500 yearly bonus for each year they are under contract.

If a teacher chooses not to accept the district's offer, they voluntarily relinquish career status. From July 1, 2014, until June 30, 2018, teachers not having earned career status prior to August 1, 2013 or granted a four-year contract, may only be issued one year contracts.

Beginning June 30, 2018, career status will end for all teachers in North Carolina and teachers who have taught less than three years in the district are eligible for one-year contracts while teachers who have taught more than three years in a district are eligible for one-, two- or four-year contracts as long as they are considered proficient based on as yet to be determined evaluations.


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