New legislation passed by the General Assembly this summer is forcing school systems across the state to re-evaluate teachers.

Senate Bill 402 eliminates teacher tenure beginning in 2018 in an effort to hold educators to a higher standard. School systems now must offer four-year contracts to 25 percent of teachers. Those who accept forgo their tenure and receive a raise each year of the contract.

For Thomasville City Schools, the question now is who is among the top 25 percent.

"We just have to find a way to make this palatable to everyone," said Dr. Barbara Armstrong, TCS human resources director. "We're not going to make everybody happy but we're going to be proactive and involve teachers in this process."

Beginning this week, teachers are taking a survey to identify possible criteria for making the top 25 percent. Recommendations by a teacher advisory committee will be made to TCS Superintendent Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin, who will then make final recommendations to the Board of Education. TCS is required to offer four-year contracts to 25 percent of its teachers, but not all have to accept. Remaining teachers who have been with TCS for three years or less will work under one-year contracts.  Teachers who choose to accept the four-year contracts will receive an additional $500 per year over the next four years, meaning a teacher making $40,000 in 2014 will make $42,500 in 2018 under the terms of the agreement.

"These teachers will have the opportunity to give up their tenure for a four-year contract," Armstrong said. "We can't make anyone give up their tenure if they don't want to. By June 30, 2018, tenure will be gone in the state of North Carolina. They can keep their tenure from now until then."

Tenure is a term used in education for job protection. TCS teachers earn tenure after they work in the system for four years with a clean record. Anyone who did not obtain tenure by June 30, 2013, never will have it, Armstrong said. 

"They're doing what we're calling a one-shot deal on giving these 4-year contracts to the 25 percent," said Lexington attorney Brad Hunt.  "It's unchartered waters and a new way of doing business. It's not the most fun topic to talk about especially when you're talking about taking something away from teachers that they've enjoyed for so long. This is a big adjustment for our teachers. "

Armstrong said TCS currently has 120 teachers who will be affected by the new legislation. Thirty of those teachers must be offered four-year contracts by June 30, 2014. 

Litigation against the state is being discussed by the N.C. Association of Educators.    

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or