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  Contracts, Resigning, Compensation and Leave Time  
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Contracts, Resigning, Compensation and Leave Time      

Some of the topics I get the most questions about are school district contracts, resigning, and “is my pay correct?” Contracts and pay sheets need to be read deliberately and carefully.  Resignations have specific timelines and guidelines you must follow in order to leave a school district with your certificate in good standing.

According to HG.org, “in Texas, the Board of Trustees is required to give notice of its decision not to renew a contract no later than the tenth day before the last day of instruction required under the contract. If this deadline passes, the school is obligated to renew the teacher’s contract and can only terminate him or her for good cause.”  This was not the case years ago when they would have to offer the contract 45 days before the end of the school year. Many schools wait till the last minute for different reasons including budgeting and determining personnel needs. 

If you are applying for a job the first time with a district, the principal, superintendent, or other individual will offer you the job. Once you are offered a job by a district, you may be asked to sign a letter of intent. You are not officially hired in most cases until the school board approves your hiring. Once that is approved the school board still must sign the contract. If a principal gives you a contract to sign, sign it and return in a timely manner so it can be signed by the board of trustees. If you do not sign and return the contract, you are not going to have a job in the future.  

There are three main types of contracts including probationary, term and continuing.  Continuing contracts are not used real often and cease only to exist when you resign, retire or you are dismissed lawfully. Term contracts are usually offered for a period of 1 - 5 years in length. Probationary contracts are offered to teachers new to a district and they are only one year at a time. They may offer you up to two additional probationary contract or the school board could offer you up to a fourth one. If you return to a school after a two year lapse of employment they may also offer you a probationary contract.  

If you are on a probationary contract, please understand that at the end of the term they may discharge you as they see it may be in the best interest of the district as determined by the school board. Most boards accept the recommendations from the superintendent and or principal. The discharge is not appealable. You are not entitled to an appeal or a hearing before the local board. This is a hard concept to understand but a school can decide to part ways with a new teacher to the district without you having any recourse. If they want to discharge you from the contract during the year due to violations of accepted standards of conduct (ie.  educator code of conduct), they may do so and you can ask for a hearing.  

If you are on a term contract, they can discharge you according to district policy and will usually have recorded and documented your failure to follow policy. You do have a right to request a hearing with an independent officer unless the district is using a reduction in force related to financial issues in the district. This hearing must be requested within 15 days with the commissioner of education. Once again if they must tell you within 10 days of the end of the school year, whether they are renewing or non renewing your contract.

Resigning from a school district must occur 45 days prior to the first instructional day of the school otherwise you would need to have permission from the district to do so. You signed a contract and the school district may consider this contract abandonment and could put a temporary hold on your certificate by sending a request to SBEC to place sanctions on the teacher. Only a school board or its designee can accept resignations after the deadline, the principal usually does not have approval to release. If the superintendent refuses to accept, the employee can appeal to the board of trustees. After the 45th day they may give consent if they find a suitable replacement. Your district is not required to release you if you are being promoted, the job has better pay, or if it improves anything about your current conditions. They may consider this but are not required to use these as factors to release you. Good cause for leaving beyond the 45 days would include issues like serious illness or health of the employee or an immediate family member, relocation of a spouse or partner, or a significant change in the family of the employee's needs.

Compensation for your services is something to pay close attention to. Pay sheets or salary calculation sheets are used by districts to verify what your pay is for the year. As Paul Jordan has stated, education is one of the few areas that you could start a job without having your pay verified. Most salaries are not verified till after the new budget year for a school with most budgets not approved till after the start of the school year. You should look closely at the step they are showing you on (remember you are at step 0 when you start) so they are paying you correctly for your experience. If you recently changed schools, your district needs to request your service record so this can be calculated. Other items to pay attention to include extra days of compensation for your contracted days, stipends that you may receive need to be listed, and department head or other extra duties should be placed on there. Use your calculator to verify what your daily rate should be since most salaries on the salary schedule posted are for 187 days. You should calculate the daily rate and make sure you are being paid that rate for your extra days. From some of the questions I have had, if the district overcompensates you they will take it back from you. If they undercompensate you, you have to remember that they close those budgets out and will put the blame on you for signing it and not catching the mistake. Take the time to read closely, you probably need every dollar you are entitled to.   

If you are on a 226 day or 12 month contract, you may also want to verify what is your requirement to fulfill those additional days. Districts vary on the way they want you to complete them. Your district may allow you to work weekends and holidays to fulfill the days whereas other districts will want you to check in every single day to meet the 226 days. If you are not sure, ask for it in writing, do not assume you can work and keep a log of days to count towards your contract time.

One last thing to always monitor is your leave balances and make sure they are being calculated correctly. You can always ask to have your absences audited. If you are given local days for leave, you cannot take them to another district if you leave. A few districts will allow compensation for them if you have stayed with a district over 5 years. State days will stay with you and go from district to district. Some districts will also pay you for local days if you retire with them. The district I retired with did and I was paid for them. TRS will allow you to buy one year of service credit if you have 50 state leave days with a minimum of 10 years of service. You do not get the service credit free, it only allows you to be eligible to purchase the service credit.

All of these issues covered in this article can be complicated. By following district policies, state law and the educator code of conduct, you should be able to make wise choices related to your contracts. I urge you to call if you need help on any matter related to contracts or compensation.  


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