Thursday, January 12, 2012

Annual Contract - What does our Governor mean?

What does the Governor mean when he says annual contract? My goal below is to summarize the bill in an unbiased manner. Our legislative committee is yet to act on the bill.

Governor McDonnell proposes the elimination of continuing contract. Here is what he said in last night’s State of the Commonwealth address:

“I am asking that we remove the continuing contract status from teachers and principals and provide an annual contract in its place. This will allow us to implement an improved evaluation system that really works and give principals a new tool to utilize in managing their schools. Along with the merit pay pilot program we approved last year, we will provide more incentives and accountability to attract and retain the best and brightest teachers.”

To understand what he is proposing let’s look at the bill, HB 576, patroned by Delegate Richard P. Bell, which, if passed, will implement the Govenor’s proposal. The provisions apply to principals, assistant principals and teachers. For the sake of simplicity, I will use the word teacher to apply to all three.

But, before we dive into the bill it is important to note that the backdrop for the bill is the soon to be implemented “Guidelines for Uniform Performance Standards and Evaluation Criteria for Teachers, Principals and Superintendents.” This is the plan which makes student test scores a major component of teacher evaluation.

What does HB 576 propose. I’ll try to give the broad strokes.

First, the probationary period is shortened from three years to two years (probationary teachers may be dismissed without cause). During the probationary period, teachers will be evaluated twice yearly – mid-year and at year’s end. Under the current system, a teacher with satisfactory evaluations moves to continuing contract after three years of service. Under the new system a teacher with satisfactory evaluations moves to annual contract after two years. Teachers on annual contract will be evaluated on an annual basis.

Second, if a teacher on annual contract has unsatisfactory evaluations for two or two of three years, they can be moved to probationary contract or dismissed.

Assistance must be provided prior to termination.

Teachers on annual contract must be given a “notice of noncontinuation” by June 15 (under current law this notice must be given by April 15), and resignations can be offered after the June 15 date as well.

The bill contains the following reduction in force (RIF) provisions:

“If workforce reduction is needed, a division school board shall retain employees based upon educational program needs and the performance evaluations of employees within the affected program areas. Within the program areas requiring reduction, the employee with the lowest performance evaluations shall be the first to be released. A division school board shall not prioritize retention of employees based solely upon seniority.”

Thanks for checking in today. I'll address the retirement issue tomorrow.