NC Educators: Not Sure What to Do about the Bonus/Contract Deal? Just Say No

Since the days of actually eating lunch in the teacher’s lounge ended long ago, there isn’t a “water cooler” moment in my teaching day anymore.  I miss the adult conversation that was an opportunity to “pick the brains” of wiser teachers with much more experience.  As I think about this 25% plan – the process by which some of the teachers at my school will enter a pool and be offered a bonus in turn for surrendering their career status – I have missed the forum for communication among teachers all the more.  So, I decided to be a “walking water cooler” and seek the perspectives and advice of educators, current and retired, about the plan.  I wanted to know practical things like, “Under what circumstances is it logical to enter the pool?”   I’ve listened, and thought about it, and here’s where I now stand.

Just say no.  I shouldn’t enter the pool, and there are very few teachers who should.

The only teachers who should enter the pool are those who feel very, very secure in their jobs and plan to retire in the next few years.  If they get the bonuses, they will raise their pay, and that will, in turn,  raise their pension.

Anyone else? JUST SAY NO. 

Here’s the collective wisdom I have gathered, sprinkled with a healthy dose of wise sayings to help drive the points home:

Send a message

If the vast majority of teachers opt out, it will be a powerful statement to the powers that be that created this plan.  This plan is counterproductive, resented by teachers and administrators alike, and the best way to make that clear is to refuse to participate at any level.

What about the money?

Only the first year of the bonuses are funded.   If you have career status, that is worth something.  The bonuses are theoretical, much like the ABC merit pay bonuses we were promised in years past.

It’s not a lot of money.  After taxes, that first year, the only year that’s funded, the bonus will equal about $30-35 a month.  We know if you starve a dog and then throw it a bone, it will jump.  But in this case, it’s a small bone that has very little meat on it.  And it could get caught in your throat.

Tenure and legislative changes

Career status might be slated to disappear in 2018, but there’s a lot of water to go under that bridge.  There are elections, and lawsuits . . . the fat lady hasn’t yet sung.   If the laws change, and you have never surrendered your career status, you won’t have to figure out how to restore it.

The convoluted evaluation process

Curiosity killed the cat.  You might just be curious if you are in that top 25%, and the only way to know for sure is to jump in the pool.  But, if you look at the process, is that rating they come up with really a fair assessment of your teaching ability?  In past years, I have been rated higher on the NCEES than I deserved on some standards and lower on others.  I understood I could have a long drawn out meeting with my administrator to show evidences to boost my ratings, but I was told that this was a growth tool, and did not see reason in arguing every unchecked box.   I didn’t fear for my job, and heck, the last thing my evaluator or I need at the end of the year is a three hour meeting!  So, I took what I could from the process and moved on.

So, if you look at how they are making the sausage, it becomes a little less appetizing to find out how you stack up.  The numbers they are using are flawed, and so the results will be also.  You can’t take an evaluation instrument intended to be used as a “growth” model, twist it into an “achievement” model, and expect it to yield very good results.

The spirit of collaboration 

And, jumping in that pool could be corrosive to the spirit of collaboration we have been building in our schools for years.  You know the drill for defeating a group – divide and conquer.  Once we start seeking divisions – keeping score of who is better than whom – there is an incentive to withhold ideas so our star can shine a little brighter than someone else’s.  That is not in our self-interest as teachers nor in the interest of the kids.  We need all ships to rise on the tide of collaboration that has become the new norm at many schools.  This 25% plan runs counter to that ethic and is, therefore,  dangerous.

Final thoughts

At first I was tempted to enter the pool and then say “no thanks” were I offered the bonus/contract.  In Wake County, they aren’t “going down the line” and offering refused contracts to anyone else.  My reasoning was that I would “save” someone else from making the mistake of taking the contract.  But, what if the person’s spot I took was a person seeking to retire in the next few years?  I could deprive them of the chance to boost their retirement income – the one group of people who stand to benefit from this deal.  I decided, in the end, that plan was too unpredictable and risky.

So, in the end, it’s pretty simple.  Just say no from the start.  Do not enter the pool.

And remember, in Wake County, you must actually SAY NO.  If you do not respond to the initial poll in Wake County in the early spring, you will automatically be entered in the pool.

So, whew.  That’s decided.  Back to bigger concerns, like . . . . teaching.

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