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  April 2018: Contract Time  
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By: Barney McClure, VATAT Executive Director

For many teachers this is the time of year to begin looking for the “offer of employment letter” for next school year. It is possible that some teachers are on a two-year contract, but they are a definite minority. For everyone else, this is a key time.   

Under current school law, a teacher must be notified if they will receive an offer of employment no later than 15 days before the last day of instruction. That could be as late as mid-May, but most districts will start the process in April. They will often ask for a signature from the teacher stating they would like to be considered for a contract the next year. While not a binding contract, this letter gets the ball rolling.   

Even after signing a contract, the teacher may resign with no penalty as late as 45 days before the first day of instruction. That date usually falls during the first or second week in July, but depending on your school calendar, may be earlier or later. Administrators looking to fill a staff usually won’t be happy with a resignation after the teacher signs a contract, but it does happen. After the 45-day window, a district may put a “flag” on your certificate for two years if you resign during that period. This designation makes you unemployable as a teacher during that time frame.   

It is possible for the district to release you from that contract if you request it after that 45-day restriction if they can hire a suitable replacement. That hiring process can take a month or more to complete, and if another district is waiting on you, it puts them in a bind.

Currently there are two kinds of contracts being offered. The first is a probationary contract, usually offered for three years to a beginning teacher. While good for the duration of the contract, there is no right to an ensuing contract. Districts may inform the teacher that “for the good of the district,” they have decided to make a change. Experienced teachers moving to a new district may also find themselves on this type contract their first year in the new job.

The second type of contract is called a term contract. It must be renewed each year, and a teacher has some right to expect an ensuing contract. If another contract is not offered, there must be some reason documented. In some cases, it doesn’t take much to trigger this happening. A teacher doesn’t have to be put on a growth plan as an intermediate step in this process. Our association can step in to help if a teacher finds himself or herself in this situation. We can help some teachers keep their job, while with others we aren’t as successful.

There are some of our elected leaders who think all teachers should be on a probationary contract with no right to be renewed. This is brought up at times as giving local districts more flexibility in hiring and retention. We will be watching. I would hate to see this happen after a teacher spends $50,000 to $75,000 on an education, takes a job, moves to a community, and then finds he or she can’t really count on long-term employment.

With all this said, most teachers in well-run districts can look forward to a rewarding, long term career that matters. Our program depends upon this.  

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