Sign the contract on time….

Today we offer another story of a school administrator who failed to turn in the signed contract on time, and therefore, lost her job. In February, 2020, the superintendent informed Dr. Quintella Bounds that she would recommend contract renewal due to Dr. Bounds’s excellent performance. There would be no pay raise, but otherwise “all other terms of her contract would remain the same.”

However, the board made a change in the proposed contract, dropping the days of vacation from 20 to 15. When Dr. Bounds complained to the superintendent about this, she was told that she would have to take that up with the board. Dr. Bounds got the proposed contract on March 25 and was told that she needed to sign and return it by March 31. 

She didn’t. Nor did she ask for more time to consider it. On April 1 the superintendent called Dr. Bounds to remind her that the deadline had passed and she needed to take action immediately. The superintendent warned Dr. Bounds that other administrators had lost their jobs in similar circumstances. But Dr. Bounds wanted to talk to her lawyer about the proposed contract. She did not sign, and did not ask for more time.

Without offering Dr. Bounds a hearing, the district simply posted her position as “vacant.” The district hired someone else in June.

Was Dr. Bounds denied due process? The 7th Circuit said no. She was not denied due process because she was not entitled to due process.

This frequently used legal term—due process—comes from the 5th and the 14th Amendments, both of which require that process be afforded before the government deprives someone of “life, liberty or property.” Here the focus was on “property”—the continuation of her employment with the district.  The court emphasized that there never was a signed contract for the next school year, and thus Dr. Bounds had nothing more than an “expectation” of continued employment. She did not have a contractual right that the law recognizes as “property.”

It's Bounds v. Country Club Hills School District 160, decided by the 7th Circuit on April 10, 2023. It’s cited at 2023 WL 2852621. 


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