I attended the State Board of Education Meeting today during the time they were discussing and voting on the proposed legislation about repealing the Orderly Termination Act, making teachers "at will" employees, and mandating performance pay.
They voted 9-3 to "support the concepts of moving human resources control to local school boards, changing the duration of a contract from perpetual to a time limit to be renewed (like every 3-5 years), and performance pay". See Salt Lake Tribune article.
Kim Burningham (Bountiful) voted against stating that the legislation says local control, but then also says what the duration of contracts must be and that districts must implement performance pay. He thought the bill was contradictory.
Larry Shumway, State Superintendent, said teachers would not be truly "at will" because they would have a contract for a specified length of time. After that time, the district would not "renew" a teacher, but would "offer subsequent employment."
Carol Murphy (Midway) supported this because she believes the state will be forced into performance pay and wants them to be ahead of that.
Joel Coleman (West Valley) said it is harder to remove a teacher who is just not a good fit.
Laurel Brown (Murray), who voted against, said the data they have received is only anecdotal. She wants empirical data on what needs to be changed. She asked, "What is the problem we are trying to fix?" and "What are the positive outcomes?" She also pointed out that this legislation would impact administrators and classified employees as well as teachers.
Ike Spencer (minority rep and principal at West Lake Junior High in Granite District) claims there is no way for him to get rid of teachers once they are no longer provisional. Then he said it would take three years to fire a tenured teacher.
Leslie Castle (Salt Lake) claimed teachers fear being evaluated and feel entitled to their jobs.
Dixie Allen (Vernal, State Board Chairperson) said a "quality administrator can get rid of bad teachers." She asked about the responsibility of administrators. She asked Board members to consider where teachers are right now, what the legalities might be, taking away due process is wrong, and putting everything on the teacher is wrong.
Tami Pyfer (Logan) pointed out that the State Board can set provisions for consistency across the state and that the legislation allows for an opt out.
Martell Menlove, Deputy Superintendent, said this is not strictly "at will", just a limited length of employment expectation. He said there would still need to be a process for firing a teacher including timelines and notifications. There would not be a statewide performance pay, that that would be decided by each District.
Craig Coleman (Genola - South Jordan) supports giving authority to local boards, performance pay, and more professional development resources.
At this point, public comment was allowed.
Jim Johnson, Superintendents Association, said they need more details to form an opinion, but are concerned this is moving too fast, that all stakeholders need a chance to respond.
Kory Holdaway, UEA, speaking for Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh who is ill, said teachers are concerned that this was not a collaborative effort, that it suggests nothing about student improvement, and seems politically motivated. Teachers are willing to support reforms when they are included. Slow down and consider the current work being done on educator evaluation standards. Kory then asked his own question. "Should it be easy to terminate teachers?" He then stated that teachers are not afraid to be evaluated.
Jeff Leonard, Utah Support Employees Association, said this law is more harsh on classified employees, because they are not included in the five year contract, they are "at will".
Pete, an Ogden parent, said this was a solution looking for a problem, that it will discourage new teachers, that in his experience "without cause" means "someone cheaper", that there is no data to support performance pay, that this will not improve schools, and it tells teachers they are the problem.
Derek Brown, House of Representatives District 49 (Salt Lake), said he applauded the Board for moving forward with local control since it is hard to terminate teachers.
Shirley, AFT, talked about her experience as a teacher and administrator. She said poor teachers are still there because administrators don't do their jobs. She said Utah educates more kids with less money and more of those kids go to college than other states, "Utah's teachers are glorious."
Tim Beagley (Charter School Board Member) said that charter schools would be exempt from this legislation.
Although the actual legislation may change, the concepts of leaving orderly termination to local school boards, no expectation of perpetual employment ("at will"), and performance pay are on their way to the legislature with the support of the State Board of Education.