It is conventional wisdom that school administrators need not tell a probationary teacher why his or her contract will not be renewed for another year. Some lawyers advise that you simply say nothing. Others suggest that you should say “It’s in the best interests of the school district.”
That’s the language used in the law. Section 21.103 of the Texas Education Code tells us that a probationary contract can be terminated at the end of its term (therefore, not renewed) “if in the board’s judgment the best interests of the district will be served by terminating the employment.”
But it is wise to keep in mind that if the teacher pursues legal action challenging the termination, an explanation is going to have to be offered at some point. If the teacher files a discrimination complaint, alleging that the termination was improperly based on race, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin, the school is going to have to refute that allegation by explaining the reason for the decision. “Best interests of the district” does not really answer the question.
So we think it is wise to keep this in mind before you have a conversation with a probationary teacher in which the subject is broached. What is the real reason? If you cannot articulate a non-discriminatory, non-retaliatory, job-related reason why this action is in the best interests of the district, then perhaps you should re-think the decision. And in any event, be sure to contact your school’s attorney to discuss the proper procedure and timing for these decisions.
DAWG BONE: ENDING THE PROBATIONARY CONTRACT: YOU DON’T HAVE TO EXPLAIN, BUT YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO