Some key points from the Commissioner about nonrenewals.

A recent decision from the Commissioner tells us five things worthy of note with regard to the nonrenewal of an educator’s contract.

First, the board should provide a written notification of its decision if the board has conducted the hearing itself.  If the board decides the case after an independent hearing examiner makes a recommendation, a verbal announcement of its decision would be sufficient.  Here, the board conducted the hearing itself. At the conclusion of the hearing, the board voted to nonrenew the contract, and announced this publicly.  The Commissioner ruled that this verbal notice was insufficient.  The teacher’s timeline to appeal the decision to T.E.A. never started to run, because there was no written notice.

Second, teachers facing nonrenewal of contract are not entitled to “due process.” They are entitled to the procedures set out in statute, but the constitutional concept of “due process” does not apply because they are not facing a deprivation of a property interest.  Therefore, the counselor’s  complaints about procedural irregularities did not implicate “due process.”

Third, the decision implicitly reminds us that boards can set and enforce a time limit on the hearing.  Here, the counselor was unable to call two witnesses at the hearing before the board because she ran out of time. The board had given each side two hours to present its case.  The Commissioner found no fault with this.

Fourth, the standard for nonrenewal is not very high.  Here, the district gave notice of eight reasons for nonrenewal, each one pulled directly from Policy DFBB(Local).  The Commissioner notes that “a district is only required to show that substantial evidence in the local record that supports one of its pre-established reasons for nonrenewal.  Substantial evidence is not a  high burden of proof.”

Fifth, the Commissioner reminds us that remediation of deficiencies is not required: “…there is no statutory requirement that a school district must give a teacher an opportunity for remediation before nonrenewing a contract.”

Bottom line: the district followed its policy; met timelines; produced substantial evidence. The counselor’s appeal was denied. The case is Salazar v. Sinton ISD, Dkt. No. 049-R1-07-2015, decided by the Commissioner in September, 2015.