The commissioner issued three decisions providing guidance on personnel matters. These decisions address suspension of a teacher without pay, termination of a probationary contract, and an employee’s failure to timely grieve issuance of a probationary contract.
Below is a brief summary of these decisions. The complete text of each decision is available in TASB Legal Services (subscription required) or the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website. Districts should review these decisions with their local counsel to determine local implications.
Suspension without pay. This case highlights the importance of following statutory procedures for suspension of a contract employee without pay. Before an employee can be suspended without pay, the district must provide written notice of the proposed action and an opportunity for a hearing before an independent hearing examiner appointed by TEA. The commissioner found that the district didn’t follow procedures and granted the employee’s appeal and awarded him back pay and benefits. Romero v. Sheldon Indep. Sch. Dist., Tex. Comm’r of Educ. Decision No. 036-R2-07-2019 (Aug. 30, 2019).
Motion to terminate contract was insufficient. This emphasizes the importance of the wording of a motion to terminate an employee’s contract. The commissioner held that the board did not properly terminate the employee’s probationary contract, despite voting on two separate motions, and awarded him back pay and benefits. Kelley v. Marlin Indep. Sch. Dist., Tex. Comm’r of Educ. Decision No. 001-R2-09-2018 (May 13, 2019).
Failure to grieve district issuing probationary contract in a timely manner. When the board voted to terminate the employee’s probationary contract, she complained that the vote to terminate her probationary contract in the best interest of the district was improper because she should have been employed on a term contract. The commissioner held that, under the district’s grievance process, the employee’s complaint regarding the type of contract issued was not timely. The commissioner agreed with the district decision that the date the contract was issued was the triggering date for the grievance and dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. Simani v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., Tex. Comm’r of Educ. Decision No. 021-R10-03-2019 (Aug. 30, 2019).
Implications for Districts
These decisions provide districts with insight on how to best handle similar situations. Because each decision is case-specific and includes findings of fact and conclusion of law, it’s best to consult with your local counsel before implementing any changes or taking action.
April Mabry oversees HR Services training services, member library products, and the HRX newsletter. She has provided HR training and guidance to Texas public schools since 1991. Mabry was a classroom teacher for 11 years in Texas and Michigan.
Mabry has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan and certification as a professional in human resources (PHR) and is a SHRM-CP.
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