DeKalb superintendent apologizes to teachers about “hostile” new contracts

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — DeKalb County School District Superintendent Cheryl Watson-Harris has apologized to teachers after a controversial list of job requirements was sent to about 7,000 employees with their contracts earlier this month.

On March 1, the district issued new contracts for the 2022-2023 school year that listed 10 “performance factors” that upset many teachers.

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The list included the ability to work under stress and several other requirements that many teachers interpreted as being in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In one provision, teachers were told they would be required to “ignore irrelevant sights and sounds and intrusive thoughts or stimuli.”

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“I apologize to all staff members that were confused,” Watson-Harris said at a board meeting earlier this week. “We want our staff members to always have information ahead of time and opportunities to ask any questions that they need.”

The district has set up meetings with teachers to clear up confusion and said that the district’s legal counsel and human resources staff are reviewing the language. The district said it will give an update soon.

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Channel 2′s Richard Belcher talked to attorney Stephen Katz, who called the contracts “vague, hostile and potentially illegal.”

“It’s really shooting itself in the foot with this kind of hostile language,” Katz said. “They don’t know whether this condition or that condition is going to interfere with their job, whether they’re going to be assessed on something that really can’t be measured.”

Katz said teachers who fail to meet the standards shouldn’t be punished.

“That doesn’t make them bad teachers. It doesn’t make them bad employees. It makes them someone who needs an accommodation,” Katz said.