The performance and conduct, as well as rights and responsibilities, of Georgia public school system educators are governed by constitutional provisions, state statutes and case law. Policies are also enforced by state and local boards, as well as the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.
Here are answers to some basic questions of particular concern to educators:
What is a contract of employment?
To begin employment in a school system, an educator must have a valid Georgia teaching certificate and a signed contract of employment. Teacher contracts are issued for only one year at a time. Contracts of employment constitute binding bilateral agreements between a professional educator and a state or local employer.
How can a contract of employment be terminated?
- By mutual agreement—that means by resignation of the employee and the acceptance of such resignation by the employer. Educators should not resign without first contacting the PAGE legal department.
- By dismissal from employment for cause following a hearing.
What are the consequences if a professional employee resigns from his/her position without the consent of the employer?
Such act constitutes breach of contract and abandonment of position. It may subject the educator to action taken by the PSC against his/her certificate. The educator could also be sued for breach of contract.
What does “tenure” mean?
Every annual contract begins and expires of its own terms. For that reason, there can be no expectancy on the part of the employee to be offered a new contract at the end of the contract year, nor does an expectancy exist on the part of the employer that this year’s employee will accept a new contract offer for the ensuing year. That situation changes if and when the educator has signed four consecutive full-year contracts in the same school system, or if the employer has failed to notify the employee of nonrenewal of contract by May 15. Once the employee has signed a fourth contract by the same employer, he or she enjoys a standing commonly known as “tenure.” Acquiring tenure rights simply means that one has a right to expect continuous employment in that school system. In other words, the school system must renew your contract year after year unless good cause to non-renew can be shown.
Can an employer ever forfeit the right to non-renewal of a contract of a professional employee?
Yes, if the employer fails to notify such employee of the non-renewal on or before May 15 of any year in which a contractual relationship exists.
Is there “tenure” in position?
No. There is no tenure in position; for instance, a principal is not tenured as a principal but as a professional employee of the school system in which he/she occupies the position of principal. Tenure will only protect an employee at a certain pay level, not in a particular position.
Do administrators have tenure?
No, except for those administrators who had acquired tenure prior to April 7, 1995, when administrative tenure was eliminated.
Does a tenured employee remain tenured if he/she transfers to a different school system?
No. However, the time needed to become tenured in the new school system is shortened from four consecutive contracts to two.
If an educator becomes employed only a few days after school begins and if he/she remains employed throughout the contract year, does that count toward tenure?
No. An educator must be a full-time employee for a full contract year.
Can six or more half-year or half-time employments in the same system be considered as three or more full-year or full-time employments and thus count toward obtaining tenure status?
No. Part-time employees cannot acquire tenure status.
Can a non-tenured teacher’s contract be non-renewed?
Yes. For example, a system can simply state in writing that the teacher’s services are no longer needed. The system must send this out by May 15.
Must reasons for non-renewal of contract of a non-tenured teacher be given?
Upon request, a written explanation for failure to renew a contract shall be made available to any certified personnel by the superintendent.
Can a non-renewal of contract of a non-tenured teacher ever be challenged successfully?
Yes, if the non-renewal is based on constitutionally impermissible grounds, such as age or race discrimination.
What constitutes a demotion?
The reassignment of an educator from one position to another having less responsibility, prestige and salary.
Grounds for Termination
For what reasons may the contract of employment of a teacher, principal or other employee having a contract for a definite term be terminated or suspended?
- Willful neglect of duties;
- Inciting, encouraging or counseling students to violate any valid state law, municipal ordinance or policy or rule of the local board of education;
- To reduce staff due to loss of students or cancellation of programs;
- Failure to secure and maintain necessary educational training; or
- Any other good and sufficient cause.
What is the difference between an employee’s suspension and a temporary relief of duties?
A suspension is a punitive action that must be preceded by formal charges and a hearing. A temporary relief from duties, which is always given with pay, occurs when the educator’s alleged conduct that warrants such action is of such a nature that his/her continued presence in the classroom or in the administrative office is indefensible. In the case of temporary relief from duties, a hearing for the purpose of adjudicating the charges against the educator must be made available to the educator within 10 working days after he/she has been relieved from duty.
What is insubordination?
The willful non-adherence to a direct order, verbally or in writing, that is reasonable in nature and that is given with or by the proper authority.
Can insubordination and willful neglect of duty be found in one and the same conduct?
Yes. More often than not they go hand in hand.
Can an educator’s constitutional right to free speech ever be limited within the school setting?
Yes, under limited circumstances.