It’s the time of year when personnel decisions are made. Chapter 21 of the Education Code imposes a timeline for the renewal or nonrenewal of probationary and term contracts, and that time draws nigh. So today and tomorrow we will offer a few reminders about this process.
The employment of a probationary teacher can be terminated as of the end of the teacher’s contract if the school board determines that this action is in the best interests of the district. The process is pretty simple. Normally, the principal and superintendent go to the board with a recommendation for termination and the board approves it. Of course the board does not have to approve such a recommendation, but in most instances, it will do so. The teacher is then given written notice of this decision. The teacher is not entitled to a “nonrenewal hearing” like her counterpart down the hall who has a term contract. In fact, the law does not even require an explanation.
However, principals and superintendents should tread carefully here. The probationary teacher is not without legal recourse. The teacher can file a grievance internally, and can pursue legal action in court alleging that the termination of contract was based on an improper motive. If the teacher pursues legal action, the time will come when the principal and superintendent will have to disclose why they believe that the termination was in the best interests of the school district.
Furthermore, even though there is no law requiring that the teacher be told the reasons for the termination, most administrators do have that conversation with the teacher. In fact, that conversation, sometimes referred to as “the talk” usually comes before the matter goes to the board so that the teacher will have the option of making a graceful exit from the district via resignation.
We encourage you to talk to your school lawyer about any recommendation of termination of a probationary contract. Your lawyer can provide a good sounding board to determine if the proposed termination is based on job-related, non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons. Your lawyer can also guide you through “the talk” so as to avoid any claim of harassment, duress or coercion.
DAWG BONE: DON’T GET A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY IN DEALING WITH PROBATIONARY TEACHERS.