District thought it had the guy’s resignation. Then they gave him a contract. What now?

Happy Leap Day, Readers! And in honor of this day that comes only once every four years, we offer a story that comes from a court case that we hope won’t be repeated for at least another four years.

It seems that Tomas Martinez, an assistant principal in United ISD, filed a few grievances against his boss, the principal.  Mr. Martinez was a veteran educator of 21 years, the last 12 as an A.P, but he apparently did not have a great relationship with the principal.  Fortunately, the parties were able to settle all their disagreements in one fell swoop.  On May 9, 2014 the district and Mr. Martinez signed off on a Settlement Agreement that could not have been more clear.  Mr. Martinez would 1) drop all his grievances and 2) resign, effective January 23, 2015.

That settled that. Or so they thought.

However, two weeks later the district offered Mr. Martinez a term contract for the entire 2014-15 school year. Mr. Martinez signed it, as did the board president.

When January rolled around, the HR department contacted Mr. Martinez to discuss his impending departure.  Mr. Martinez informed HR that he was going nowhere. He had a contract for the entire year.

Hmmm. The district did not see it that way.  After all, the man had promised to resign.  The district barred Mr. Martinez from working for the district after January 23, 2015, the date when he had said he would resign.

This matter ended up in the lap of the Commissioner, who ruled in favor of Mr. Martinez. The Commissioner held that the contract amended and overrode the Settlement Agreement.  The Settlement Agreement allowed for modifications of its terms by a written document, signed by both parties. As the Commissioner pointed out, the employment contract was a written document signed by both parties.   Moreover, the employment contract included the standard paragraph about how it was the “entire agreement” between the parties, thus overriding anything they had previously agreed to.

Of course, since United ISD thought that Mr. Martinez was no longer its employee after January 23, 2015, it did not go through the normal procedures to nonrenew his contract as of the end of that year. So guess what? They got him for the next school year as well.  Term contracts that are not properly “nonrenewed” are automatically renewed.  Thus the Commissioner held that Mr. Martinez was entitled to compensation for the remainder of the 2014-15 school year; and he was entitled to a contract for 2015-16.

The case is Martinez v. United ISD, Docket No. 030-R10-03-2015, decided by Commissioner Williams on November 23, 2015.