Contracts and Tenure for Teachers

Finding that first teaching job and signing that first contract is the dream of many young students. Another goal for many is to achieve tenure. In this post, we will look at the teacher’s contract and tenure.

Contract

A contract is an agreement with obligations between two or more peoples or parties. It clearly explains the duties and rights of both sides. From the teacher’s perspective, duties can include such things as the teaching assignment, length of the school day, and length of the school year. In terms of rights for the teacher, it may address such items as salary, max class size, and the process for grievances. A grievance is a way to complain about working conditions such as classes that are too large or neglect of building maintenance.

All teachers, including teachers with tenure, sign a contract. The contract is generally of one academic year in length. One reason for this length is because budgets are generally year-to-year and it may be necessary to not renew contracts of teachers. Another reason is that if a teacher who does not have tenure is not performing it is easier to let go of them after a year than if they are signed to a multi-year contract.

Once a contract is signed, it needs to be approved by the school board, the principal or HR Director represents the school board but the contract is generally not considered official until the school board approves it. This is often a formality as the school board usually empowers the local administration to select the faculty.

A breach of contract takes place when either party does not fulfill its obligations in the contract. For example, a school does not pay a teacher or a teacher stops working for the school. The penalties for this vary. For the teacher, it is possible to have your teaching license suspended or revoked. A school that breaches a contract can be fined. However, this varies from state to state.

If it is ever necessary to breach a contract as a teacher it is best to ask for a release through a resignation letter. Often, employers avoid keeping workers who no longer want to be there and the release is granted. Also, the administrative headache of keeping someone employed who does not want to be there is not worth it. Most contracts have some explanation of how either party can get out of it.

Tenure

Tenure is a removal of the probationary status of a new teacher. With tenure, a teacher moves to what is called a continuing contract, which stays in effect until further notice. This means that signing a yearly contract is mainly a formality until otherwise. Obtaining tenure varies by state. In some places, it based on time serve while in others it takes an action from the school board.

The primary purpose behind tenure is to allow the teacher to focus on teaching without concerns with interference. One example of interference would be worrying if you had a job next year because of philosophical differences with the administration.

Tenure is not a guaranteed job, rather it means that there must be grounds for dismissal. There must be a strong reason to dismiss a tenured teacher as the job now belongs to the teacher. Examples of ways to get fired for teachers with tenure include gross negligence, clear incompetence, or inappropriate behavior with students. Even when a tenured teacher should be dismissed many states require that the tenured teacher is given a chance to change their behavior. The exception being for highly offensive behavior such as being convicted of a crime.

The exception to this is when a school has to reduce the size of its workforce. When a school is struggling financially even tenured teachers are not safe. The school simply needs to demonstrate that they do not have the finances to support all of their current teachers.

Conclusion

A teacher needs to be aware of the hiring and dismissal policies for their own protection. Failure to be aware of the ideas covered in this post could put the teacher in a bad situation in which there appears to be no solution.

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