It sometimes happens that a teacher behaves badly very late in the school year. Sometimes this happens after the district has already renewed the teacher’s contract for the next year. Sometimes the district has not formally renewed the contract for next year, but the deadline for notice of proposed nonrenewal has passed, and no such notice has been given. This automatically renews the teacher’s contract. So the district is effectively obligated to the teacher for another year, but then the teacher engages in misbehavior serious enough to warrant termination. What happens then?
Something close to this happened in Round Rock ISD last year. We told you about one part of this case on Monday. Today, the rest of the story.
On April 26, 2019, the district offered the teacher a contract for the next school year—the 2019-20 school year. Just five days later the teacher slapped a kindergarten student. Yikes! The teacher immediately reported the incident and was removed from the classroom. The district began its investigation. As of May 9th, that investigation was still in the works. That’s the day the teacher signed and returned the contract for 2019-20.
This puts the district in an interesting dilemma. It was too late to give notice of proposed nonrenewal. The district would have to a) seek termination; b) honor the contract for the 2019-20 school year and seek nonrenewal of it for the next year; or c) just put the teacher back to work with some other form of corrective action over the slap.
The district opted for Option B. It gave notice of proposed nonrenewal on July 8th and held a nonrenewal hearing on August 5th. Keep in mind this is about nonrenewal for the 2020-21 school year, so the district is conducting the hearing almost a year in advance.
The teacher argued that the district had waived its right to act on the basis of an incident that occurred in the 2018-19 school year. After all, the district renewed that contract, and the Commissioner has ruled previously that if a district renews a contract after it is fully aware of misconduct by the teacher, it cannot later rely on that misconduct to take adverse action.
The Commissioner rejected the waiver argument. Key Quotes:
When a school district with full knowledge of a teacher’s actions offers the teacher a new contract, the district has waived any right to take action against the teacher’s contract for the events in the prior school years. If a school district does not have full knowledge of the teacher’s actions or has begun to take action against the teacher, the district has not waived its right to take action against the teacher’s contract.
Respondent took prompt action as soon as the administration was aware of Petitioner’s misconduct by removing her from the classroom and placing her on leave while the investigation was completed. Even though Respondent moved slowly, it was in the process of acting and did nothing to suggest waiver of its right to take action against Petitioner’s contract. (Emphasis added).
So the nonrenewal was affirmed. The case is Kenyon v. Round Rock ISD, decided by the Commissioner on December 1, 2019.
DAWG BONE: END OF YEAR MISCONDUCT REQUIRES CAREFUL CONSIDERATION.
Tomorrow: being prepared for an IRS or TRS audit.