A certified educator’s contract guarantees that the district will employ the educator until the district goes through a specific process required by the Texas Education Code to end the employment (termination or nonrenewal). It also guarantees that the educator will work for the district unless the educator goes through the process required by law to end her employment. These resignation requirements vary, depending upon the timing and reason for the resignation. The most common scenarios are:
Resignations effective during the school year: Because the contract is a legally enforceable promise by the educator to work for the entire school year, an educator cannot resign during the school year without the district’s agreement to accept the resignation and release the educator from her remaining contract obligation. Resigning without this acceptance and release can lead to a complaint that the educator “abandoned” her contract and could lead to the certification sanctions described below.
If the district agrees to release the educator from the contract, the educator is free to go. Educators should be sure that the person telling them that they can go has the authority to do so. Most districts have authorized the superintendent to accept resignations, and many have authorized the human resources director. However, few, if any, have authorized the district’s principals to accept resignations. What this means is that it is not safe to rely on the principal saying that you can go.
Although a school district cannot force educators to continue to work by refusing to release them from their contracts, the district can file a complaint with the Texas Education Agency stating that an educator abandoned his contract without good cause and requesting that the State Board for Educator Certification sanction the educator’s certificate. Whether an educator is actually sanctioned will depend on the reason the educator left and what actions the educator took to minimize the disruption to the district and students.
Resignations effective at the end of the school year: An educator is always free to resign effective the end of the school year. It does not matter what the reason is, and the district cannot refuse to accept the resignation. In fact, as described in more detail below, educators should be very careful not to submit a resignation effective the end of the school year until they are sure they want to resign because once submitted, it will usually be impossible to “take back” or rescind.
Resignations effective before the beginning of the next school year: Educators often get job offers after accepting a contract for the upcoming school year and may wonder whether they can accept a new offer because they have already signed a contract. The Texas Education Code provides that an educator can freely resign her employment as long as she submits her resignation at least 45 calendar days before the first instructional day at the district. The code states that the resignation should be addressed to the board of trustees or the board’s designee (often the superintendent) and should be mailed via certified mail, return receipt requested, so that the educator has proof that the resignation was submitted and received and when.
Non-certified staff and charter school employees
The Texas Education Code provides many of the specific legal rules that regulate the “how and when” for resignations, but these rules apply only to contracts between certified educators and regular independent school districts. Because the education code is largely silent on other contracts, it is generally up to the district or charter school to establish when and how the contract employee can resign. So, how and when a school district’s noncertified contract staff, such as a business manager or transportation director, or a charter school’s contract staff, including certified teachers, can resign will be largely determined by local policy. Generally, a resignation effective during the term of the contract will require the district’s acceptance and release.
It often seems that at-will staff (those employed without contracts or whose contracts allow either party to terminate their employment at any time and for any reason) are always “on the short end of the stick” with less rights and protections than contract staff. But this is one area where not having a contract is actually an advantage. An at-will employee is free to resign at any time for any reason. Though advance two-weeks notice is generally considered professionally appropriate and may be a good idea for future references, it is not required. Similarly, while a written notice of resignation is considered professionally appropriate, an at-will employee can legally simply stop going to work without a word to anyone. Of course, this fact illustrates why it is important for staff, particularly at-will staff ,to keep their employers well-informed about absences. If not, the district might just assume you quit and replace you.