The Annual Mark Tilley Report….

Mark Tilley is the Lead Attorney for Legal Advocacy at TASB.  Every year at the UT School Law Conference Mark provides a review of the decisions from the Commissioner’s office.  Mark’s presentation is always thorough and interesting with spot-on analysis of how the Commissioner has decided cases involving teachers, students and parents. It’s always one of the highlights of the conference.

This year I noticed the paucity of teacher nonrenewal cases.  Mark reported that the Commissioner decided 30 cases last year, and 23 of them dealt with an appeal of a grievance or complaint.  There were only three cases in which a teacher appealed the decision of the board to not renew the contract. In a state the size of Texas, this is amazing. What is happening? 

Here are some possibilities:

A. Teachers in Texas are terrific.  Out of the whole bunch only three deserved to have their contracts nonrenewed.

B. Teachers facing proposed nonrenewal are resigning instead.

C. Last year when it was time to make nonrenewal decisions we were trying to figure out how to handle this COVID thing.  We didn’t have time!

D. There were only three cases decided, but there is a backlog of 793 awaiting decision.  The Agency blames it on the pandemic.

I’m guessing that B is the answer that best explains this, although C probably played a part also.  The standard to justify the nonrenewal of a teacher’s contract is not that high. There are numerous procedural hurdles that school districts have to handle, but they have been in place for a few decades now.  If supervisors have documented employee performance, if the district meets the timelines in the law, if the teacher is provided proper notice and an opportunity for a hearing, the proposed nonrenewal is very likely to result in an actual nonrenewal.  I think that the lawyers and association representatives who advise teachers understand this.

But remember the starting point for that: “if supervisors have documented employee performance.”  As we approach the time for making decisions, keep that in mind.


Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!