Thursday, November 5, 2015

Knox County BOE remains in standoff over nontenured teacher policy

Photo: Knox County Schools
Proposed Knox County Schools’ policy that would let the Board of Education have input and review the dismissal of nontenured teachers continues to remain at an impasse.

The school board on Wednesday again couldn’t come to an agreement about what revisions – if any – it would like to put into the policy.

Members are expected to talk more about the matter in the coming months.

The board has spent months looking to resolve objections to the way KCS handles renewals of non-tenured teachers, going back and forth on the language and what they want in the policy and what they don’t want in it.

The discussions come as dozens of teachers voiced concerns about the non-renewal process on their contracts.

Currently, if a teacher is not tenured, the superintendent can choose to not renew a contract without reason.

Teachers are concerned the process on their contract is not clear, and some have called it unfair. They also have argued that termination of one job – without explanation – is often career-ending.
On Wednesday, the board shot down some proposed revisions in a 5-3 vote.

Board members Patti Bounds, Amber Rountree Karen Carson, Gloria Deathridge and Mike McMillan voted against the revised policy. Members Doug Harris, Lynne Fugate and Terry Hill voted for it. Tracie Sanger was absent.

“Some of the revisions were brought to us late in the day and they could possible create new problems and I don’t think they addressed the problems in the past,” said school board member Patti Bounds.

For example, she said, a key sticking point for a number of board members was that language – initially proposed – that would allow board members to affirm dismissals was removed.

Bounds said she wants the board to have the chance to review any nontenured teacher dismissals and to have a chance to either affirm or deny them. Also, if the board voted for no renewal, she wants teachers to have the option to appeal such a decision.

“I feel it’s another checks and balances that needs to be in place,” she said.

Board member Amber Rountree agreed.

"I didn't feel like the policy as presented didn’t really restore any decision-making powers to the board," she said.

Every year, according to district officials, between 30 and 50 – or about 1 percent – of all non-tenured teachers are non-renewed. This year, 45 teachers were non-renewed. Last year, that number was 55.

Carson said she’d rather officials look at procedure rather than policy.

“I think the board should tell the superintendent to go back and look at what we’ve done the past few years – it’s very easy to review,” she said. “Changing policy should never be a knee-jerk reaction. I think the bottom line is that what we want is to make sure the procedure is the best way to carry out that policy.”

She added: “I think it starts with the review of what are we doing now. Do we have a case where the procedure in place is good but three out of 90 administrators didn’t follow it? Or do we have a case where it’s not followed by half the people or do we have a case where it’s just a bad procedure?”

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