Thursday, January 17, 2013

Due Process Preserved

The following is President Gruber's statement in regard to the agreement we reached today with the Governor:

As you know, we’ve been discussing with the Governor’s office for some months proposed changes to law relating to a fair dismissal process for teachers. It was through our sustained efforts last year, you should recall, that we preserved Continuing Contract and made it untenable for the Governor to again propose term contracts in this legislative session.

This afternoon, after securing improved legislative language that we fought very hard for, we reached agreement with the Governor’s office on an acceptable bill. We preserved due process for teachers. We prevailed on cutting out language regarding the definition of “teacher” that would have meant that some in specialist positions would not have been eligible for continuing contracts. We moved the discussion from a straight five-year probationary period to a period that is three to up to five years, at the school board option.

On behalf of the Legislative Committee, I’m proud to say that through our involvement, teachers have a voice in changes that affect our profession. The public statement we’re distributing to news media is below.

Statement by VEA President Meg Gruber

The Virginia Education Association advocates high-quality instruction in the Commonwealth’s public schools, and the 60,000 educators who are our members provide just that on a daily basis.

Virginia’s schools rank among the best in the nation, and our teachers have risen to meet higher expectations posed by tougher student performance standards. They’ve done this in spite of an increase in paperwork and other duties that take away from time to focus on lessons. The vast majority of our teachers do an excellent job in the face of significant challenges that increase each year.

Teachers who are struggling should receive support to help them improve their performance. When that falls short, however, the dismissal process must be fair to all concerned.

In consultation with our members across the state, we’ve been working with Governor McDonnell, Secretary of Education Laura Fornash, and others to improve the teacher dismissal process so that it is efficient and fair. We have agreed with the Governor on several proposed changes to existing law, including:

· A measure that gives local school boards the option of extending the probationary process for a new teacher from three to five years to allow more time to evaluate performance;

· Technical changes to the hearing process in teacher grievances and dismissals. The changes include a shortened timeframe and the appointment of a single impartial hearing officer instead of a three-member panel.

We believe the VEA’s involvement in the process has resulted in an improved bill, and Virginia’s teachers have had a meaningful voice in laws that directly affect their profession.