HR Services often gets calls about what recourse a district has for a teacher abandoning their contract.
A contract abandonment occurs when an educator resigns but isn’t released by the school district from his or her contract and fails to appear for work. Contract abandonment is listed on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website as conduct that may result in disciplinary action. Specific information about the investigative process of alleged improper conduct by an educator, including contract abandonment, can be found in Title 19 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §249.14.
Filing a complaint
Specific steps must be taken by a school district to report an educator for contract abandonment. Unless a school district fulfills all the requirements, TEA will not pursue sanctions against the educator. The school board must do the following:
- Render a finding that good cause did not exist under Texas Education Code (TEC) §21.105(c)(2), TEC §21.160(c)(2), or TEC §21.210(c)(2);
- Submit a written complaint to TEA staff by mail, fax (512.463.7545), or email (email@example.com) within 30 calendar days after the first day, without permission, the educator failed to appear for work under their contract; and
- Include with the written report:
- Educator’s resignation letter, if any
- Any agreement with the educator regarding the effective date of separation from employment
- Educator’s contract
- School board meeting minutes indicating a finding of “good cause” (If the board doesn’t meet within 30 calendar days of the educator’s separation, the minutes may be submitted within 10 calendar days after the next board meeting).
See TEA’s Frequently Asked Questions under Superintendent Reporting Requirements for additional information.
The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) may consider the following factors when an educator is reported to have abandoned a contract:
- Serious illness or health condition of the educator or close family member of the educator;
- Relocation to a new city due to change in employer of the educator’s spouse or partner who resides with the educator; or
- Significant change in the educator’s family needs that requires the educator to relocate or to devote more time than allowed by current employment.
Additionally, SBEC may consider any of the mitigating factors below when seeking, proposing, or making a decision regarding an educator who has abandoned a contract:
- Educator gave written notice to the school district 30 days or more in advance of the first day of instruction
- Educator assisted the school district in finding a replacement educator to fill their position
- Educator continued to work until the school district hired a replacement educator
- Educator assisted in training the replacement educator
- Educator showed good faith in communications and negotiations with the school district
- Educator provided lesson plans for classes following educator’s resignation
SBEC disciplinary actions
Following is a list of actions that the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) may take against an educator’s certificate:
- Require a person to withdraw from an educator preparation program
- Place restrictions on the issuance, renewal, or holding of a certificate, either indefinitely or for a set term
- Issue a non-inscribed reprimand, which is a formal, unpublished censure that does not appear on the face of the educator’s official certification record
- Issue an inscribed reprimand, which is a formal, published censure that appears on the face of the educator’s official certification record
- Suspend a certificate for a set term
- Revoke or cancel, which includes accepting the surrender of a certificate without opportunity for reapplication for a set term or permanently
Making a report of contract abandonment to TEA is a detailed and time-consuming process. If an educator is leaving the district to pursue personal interest, disciplinary action may not greatly impact the educator. If the individual is leaving the district to work for another school district the action may be more detrimental. It’s important for the district to make their decision based on what best meets their needs. See the HRX article Contract Administration Resources for information pertaining to Chapter 21 contracts.
Karen Dooley is a senior HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Karen an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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