Think before resigning when facing non-renewal

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ANSWER: Rule No. 1: DON’T PANIC. Rule No. 2: Call your union representative. Rule No. 3: Consider your options carefully and watch your deadlines to preserve those options.

Under Chapter 21 of the Texas Education Code, a teacher with a term contract that is about to expire must be given written notice by the board of trustees that the board is proposing to not renew the contract. The law has a default provision in it, so that the board’s failure to give that notice prior to the 45th day before the last day of instruction “constitutes an election to employ the teacher in the same professional capacity for the following school year.” See Tex. Educ. Code Section 21.206(b). If the teacher wishes to contest the non-renewal, she then has 15 days to request a hearing on the proposed non-renewal. If the teacher does not request a hearing, the board can proceed to non-renew the teacher. In many instances, the campus principal may tell the teacher that the principal is planning on recommending that the teacher’s contract by Martha Owen not be renewed. It may be that the principal is well-motivated, and is just trying to allow the teacher to exit the scene in a graceful manner, with as little damage to her professiona reputation as possible. On the other hand, it may be that the campus principal is just trying to handle things in the way that is easiest for her. For example, it is possible that the principal has not done her job of documenting alleged performance problems and is not in a position to justify a non-renewal recommendation to the superintendent. A resignation solves that problem for her. Whatever the principal’s motivation, teachers need to be sure to act in their own best interests. Whether a teacher’s best option is to resign and move on, or fight to stay, will depend on the facts of each teacher’s case, including the teacher’s desire to continue to work in the district, the strength of the administration’s case against her, and an assessment of the teacher’s chance of winning before a particular
school board. Keep in mind that it is often not possible to rescind a resignation. Most school boards have delegated the authority to accept a resignation to the superintendent. In most instances in which a principal has secured a resignation, the principal will ensure that the superintendent acts swiftly to accept the resignation. The principal will often be on the phone to the superintendent as soon as you leave the office. Thus, while the law provides that a teacher may revoke a resignation before it is accepted, this often does not work because the teacher does not get in the revocation before the resignation is legally accepted. In any event, it is never in a teacher’s best interest to make a hasty decision, without consulting with their local union or TFT and thinking things through. Do not let a principal pressure you into making a decision on the spot. Remember that under the law, a campus principal may only make recommendations about teacher non-renewals to the superintendent. See Tex. Educ. Code Section 11.202(b). In turn, the superintendent makes recommendations to the school board. Thus, the principal does not have the final word on the matter. If you are put into this situation, politely explain to the principal that you need some time to think about what to do and to talk to your family, that you will call her the next day, and thank her for her understanding. Do this even if you are 100 percent certain of what you want to do. Then, follow the rules set out above and phone your union. I need to know...