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Colorado Board Endorses Abolition of Teacher Tenure

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Colorado Springs--The Colorado Board of Education voted unanimously last week to recommend that tenure for public-school teachers be abolished and replaced with a "meaningful performance-based evaluation and pay system."

Although that recommendation is not binding, legislators say the action gave weight to their efforts to draft a new law redefining conditions of employment for public-school teachers in Colorado.

One member of the state board, Thomas M. Howerton, said he thinks it is very likely that some bill altering the career patterns of teachers will be passed during the 1984 legislative session, which begins in January. One bill to establish "career ladders" is being drafted for introduction by Representative John L. Herzog, a member of the House Education Committee. The legislation would establish six levels through which teachers could progress, beginning with a one- to two-year internship and ending up at a "mentor" level. Teachers would be evaluated by panels of three mentors from districts other than their own to determine, in Mr. Herzog's words, whether they should "move up or out.''

No career-ladder bill will gain the support of the state's major teachers' organization unless it guarantees that teachers facing dismissal or nonpromotion have a right to formal appeal procedures recognizing their right to due process.

Flexible, but Insistent

Gordon E. Heaton, president of the 25,000-member Colorado Education Association, said the cea is flexible about tenure but insistent that all teachers be guaranteed adequate due process. His group, he said, is preparing its own due-process bill and is hoping to have such procedures guaranteed to teachers from their first day of employment. At present, teachers can be fired during their first three years of service without going through such procedures.

The Colorado Association of School Executives, however, contends that the teachers' insistence on extending to newer teachers due-process procedures would tend to undermine any merit-based system.

Catherine A. Crandall, case's director of legislation, suggests that any change will come slowly. "Most of the large districts," she said, "have negotiated agreements that guarantee due process."

These procedures, she explained, have obligated some districts to spend as much as $150,000 and two to three years in court to permit them to terminate one tenured teacher.

Districts with such negotiated agreements, she said, will continue to be bound by them. "However, if the law is changed," she added, "there will be pressure on districts to change those agreements" when the next contract comes up.

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