Hanover teachers will undergo a five-year trial run, or probationary period, before they are handed a contract for good performance to seal the deal.
Nov. 12, the School Board voted 5-2 to approve the recommendation to extend teachers’ probationary period. In addition, teachers transferring from another school district, who already have a continuing contract, will have a two-year trial run instead of one year.
“It will give principals more time to observe and evaluate our probationary teachers prior to moving forward to continuing contract status,” said Charla Cordle, assistant superintendent of human resources.
A continuing contract is similar to tenure and is given to an instructor who demonstrates competence in their profession. Previously, Hanover instructors received them after three years. However, last year the General Assembly passed a law allowing probationary periods to last as long as five years, but left implementation up to the school division.
Cold Harbor District member Norman Sulser and Hank Lowry Jr., Ashland District representative, disagreed with the probationary period extension.
Sulser argued that a principal is on the same level as a job manager.
“Why can’t a manager make a decision in three years if the teacher has demonstrated competency?” Sulser said.
He suggested the Board keep the period at a range of three to five years, so that if an instructor shows they are competent enough after three years then the administrators could decide to hand over a continuing contract. However, the administrator would still have the option of whether or not to extend the trial run for another year.
Even with the approved five-year probationary period, teachers can be let go at any point, said Chairman Robert L. Hundley Jr., Chickahominy District Representative.
Lowry said he wanted to defer the matter to the December meeting, because he wanted to gather more information before making a decision.
At the Board’s Sept. 10 meeting, Assistant Director of Virginia Professional Educators John Szewczyk encouraged board members to keep the time range.
“We see flexible probationary periods as an important recruitment and retention tool,” Szewczyk said.
He added that if a teacher performs well after their third year in the profession, then the school should grant them a continuing contract “to honor them” and prevent those instructors from leaving the school division.
Although there was some support for the flexibility of deciding a teacher’s fate, South Anna District board member Sue Dibble agreed that the matter should be in the hands of each school principal.
“I don’t believe I’m in a position to say what is right or what is wrong but I certainly believe that our principals are in a position to say this is what I feel is best,” Dibble said. “I feel that carries more weight.”
Cordle pointed out that the benefit of a longer time period is that teachers will not be penalized for their performance if it was hindered by a personal reason such as an illness or maternity leave.
Dr. Jamelle Wilson, superintendent of Hanover schools, referred to the analogy that compares continuing contracts to a “dating period.”
“[The five-year extension] allows us more time to be more certain of that continuing contract or long term relationship that we would be getting into,” Wilson said.