ATPE Legal Team on Four Common End-of-Year Concerns

The end of the school year is a hectic time—teachers are busy testing, reviewing, preparing for next year, and boxing up classrooms. We know you’re ready for a break—and you certainly deserve one! But don’t step out of the classroom before you’ve taken a look at these four common end-of-year educator concerns, addressed by ATPE’s legal team.

I received a job offer in another district that I would love to take. But I have already signed and returned my contract for next year. Is there anything I can do?

The Texas Education Code states that certified educators can resign from their district without penalty even if they have signed their contract for the upcoming school year as long as they notify their current district at least 45 calendar days before the first instructional day of the next school year.* The notice should be made in writing, sent to the superintendent for the district, and mailed certified mail with return receipt requested to make sure you have proof that you sent the notice.

Two of my student textbooks are missing, and I have heard that the administration has made teachers pay for missing books in the past. Can they make me pay for these if they are not found?

The Texas Education Code prohibits the district from requiring that a teacher pay for lost or damaged instructional materials or technological equipment as long as the teacher has acted in good faith.* A teacher can enter into an agreement where the teacher assumes financial responsibility for technology equipment, like a laptop, as long as the teacher is allowed to take it off campus, use it for personal as well as school use, and is notified of the cost and, and most importantly, as long as the agreement is entirely voluntary. A district is prohibited from including such an agreement in an employment contract or in any other way requiring a teacher to agree.

I had to take leave due to a serious illness. My doctor gave me a release saying I could return two weeks before the end of the year but my district’s HR office is saying I cannot return until next year. Can they keep me from returning if my doctor says I am ready to come back?

Depending of the type of leave you are on, the administration may be able to delay your return until the beginning of the next year. Family and Medical Leave regulations allow the administration to delay the return of instructional personnel for leave taken near the end of the year under some circumstances. State temporary disability leave rules also allow the administration to delay an educator’s return until the beginning of the next school year. There may be other considerations that would affect your situation, so you should be sure to get competent legal advice regarding your options.

I have not received my contract for 2017-18 yet and I am getting worried. Should I be?

If you are a classroom teacher or certified administrator the Texas Education Code requires that you be employed by the district in the same professional capacity in the next school year unless you are notified that the board of trustees has terminated your probationary contract or proposed nonrenewal or termination of your term contract.* If you receive no such notice and you also have not submitted a resignation of your employment, you are legally entitled to a contract for the next year, whether or not you have actually received one to sign. The deadline for notice is 10 calendar days before the last day of instruction.

*If your district is a District of Innovation, you should make sure that it has not opted out of this provision.

ATPE’s in-house attorneys and statewide network of supporting law firms are experienced in Texas education law. For advice on these and other career-related questions, eligible ATPE members may contact ATPE’s Member Legal Services Department.

Not an ATPE member? Join today to become part of the state’s largest and most trusted group of educators.

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