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Legal notice

Schools move ahead on teacher contracts amid legal questions

The Sylva Herald & Ruralite of Sylva, North Carolina

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Local school officials plan to move forward with selecting 25 percent of teachers for four-year contracts, at least for now; a Superior Court judge ruled Friday that cutting teacher job protections is unconstitutional.

An appeal is likely.

Teachers who accept the contracts get $500 more a year in pay for four years but must relinquish tenure, called career status. Local educators and teachers statewide have vigorously opposed the Republican-crafted plan, calling it unfair and ill thought out. The local school board in March passed a resolution lodging its official objections.

Jackson County School Board Attorney Chris Campbell advised board members and administrators on the legal ramifications of the ruling and what steps the school system should take.

Campbell, who also represents Buncombe County Schools and specializes in education-related law, said the situation remains in "legal limbo."

The attorney said the Wake County judge has not yet issued an order and what happens next is dependent on his final ruling.

Meanwhile, Jackson County administrators May 16 tallied the number of teachers who decided to opt out of the process. The local system has 183 teachers and other professionals who are eligible for contract offers, meaning they have three years or more experience and proficient ratings or higher on job evaluations. Of those, 101 have opted out of the process and pulled out of consideration, Human Resources Coordinator Lavonda Woodring said. The county expects to make 46 contract offers to the remaining 82.

Jackson County is scheduled to pull names out of a hat this week. A survey showed a majority of teachers in this school system favored a lottery over selecting teachers by other methods.

Republican state lawmakers who favor contracts tout them as a method of rewarding good teachers and, through eliminating all tenure by 2018, getting rid of inept ones.

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Original Publication Date: May 22, 2014

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