Having “the talk” prior to proposed nonrenewal….

Having “the talk” prior to proposed nonrenewal….

This week we’re going to focus on nonrenewal of contracts.  The process for this is all laid out in state law, and the time is coming up to make decisions.  Let’s start with the role of the principal.

Principal Perkins is preparing to make recommendations to the superintendent about the renewal or nonrenewal of teacher contracts.  Perkins plans to meet with the one teacher who is up for possible nonrenewal to give a “heads up” about what is coming.   Which of the following would be the best way for Perkins to inform the teacher?

  1.  The superintendent and the board want you out of here.  You need to resign.
  2.  I need your resignation by Friday.  If  I don’t get it, you will never work in education again.
  3.  It might be in your best interests to talk to your spouse, and think about resigning. I’m not sure how things are going to go for you here.
  4. I have to make recommendations to the superintendent by Friday.  I plan to recommend that your contract not be renewed.

I’m sure all you Smart Daily Dawg Readers instantly know that the best answer is D.  With Answer A the principal is speaking for the superintendent and the board, which Perkins does not have the power to do.  With Answer B Perkins is doing that also, and accompanying it with an ominous threat.  Answer C is mushy. Answer D is clear, direct, and precise.  Some might say that D also involves a threat.  Yes it does, but it’s a threat to do something that Perkins has the power to do. Thus it is not coercion in the legal sense.

Of course it would be easier to avoid this conversation, as it is likely to be a difficult one.  But there are a few good reasons for having the conversation.  First, let’s consider the Golden Rule. Put yourself in the shoes of the teacher.  If your supervisor was planning to recommend the end of your employment with the district, wouldn’t you want to get a “heads up”?  I think most of us would.  Secondly, having this difficult conversation increases the likelihood of an amicable separation of employer and employee.  A resignation is easier to deal with than a nonrenewal. 

But plan carefully for this conversation.  It’s a good idea to meet with your school district’s lawyer before you broach this subject with the employee to get some assurance that there is ample basis for the action.  Unless the teacher is on probation the teacher is entitled to challenge the proposed nonrenewal in a hearing.  You should assume that will happen, and be prepared to defend your recommendation based on teacher performance.   Probationary contracts can be nonrenewed without a formal hearing, but those teachers can also raise legal challenges through a grievance or lawsuit. So whether the teacher has a probationary or a term contract, you need to have your proverbial ducks in a row. 


Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!