Q: An elementary teacher on a term contract has consistently underperformed this school year. The campus principal is coaching her and would like to give the teacher an additional year to improve. However, because of her demonstrated poor performance, we want additional flexibility to end the teacher’s employment in the future. Can a school district return a term contract teacher to probationary status?
A: Yes, provided that you give the teacher written notice of the decision to offer her a probationary contract in lieu of nonrenewal, an opportunity to consult with an attorney or teacher organization, and three business days to consider the offer.
Texas Education Code section 21.106(c) provides that a teacher may agree to be returned to probationary status under certain conditions. This agreement may occur after the superintendent has communicated the intention to the employee to recommend the teacher’s proposed termination for good cause or nonrenewal to the board. To make the agreement valid, the statute requires the following notice be provided to the teacher in writing:
1. Informs the teacher of the district’s offer to return him or her to probationary contract status;
2. The period during which the teacher may consider the offer (must be at least three district business days); and
3. The teacher’s right to seek counsel (or contact their teacher organization).
Should the teacher consider the offer and agree, the Board of Trustees is free to renew employment under a probationary contract for the next year. However, if the teacher refuses, the school district must 1) offer the teacher a term contract for the following year or 2) begin proceedings to propose the teacher’s nonrenewal or termination.