Q: I just received the written resignation of a high school science teacher who expressed to me that she had found another job in a neighboring district. Her job will be extremely hard to fill at this late stage of the summer. Can I refuse to accept the resignation?
A: Yes. You can decline to accept the resignation and submit it to the Board for a determination of good cause and initiation of proceedings to pursue sanctions against her teaching certificate for abandonment of contract.
Texas Education Code sections 21.210 (for term contracts) and 21.105 (probationary contracts) allow teachers to resign their position without penalty by filing a written resignation not later than the 45th day before the first day of instruction of the following school year (commonly referred to as the “penalty-free” resignation period). If a teacher submits a resignation any time after this date, the Board or its designee may refuse to accept the resignation and may request that sanctions be applied against the teacher’s certificate to the State Board for Educator Certification. The Education Code requires that the Board determine that “good cause” does not exist for abandoning the contract before submitting a request for sanctions to SBEC. TEC 21.210(c). In determining whether “good cause” exists for abandonment, the State Board has provided the following as examples: 1) serious illness or health condition of the educator or close family member of the educator; 2) relocation to a new city as a result of change in employer of the educator’s spouse or partner who resides with the educator; or 3) significant change in the educator’s family needs that requires the educator to relocate or to devote more time than allowed by current employment. 19 TAC 249.17 Additionally, when making a determination pertaining to an appropriate sanction, SBEC will look at the educator’s reasons for leaving and whether he/she attempted to work with the district to minimize the disruption. The State Board has identified the following as legitimate mitigating factors: 1) thirty-days written notice; 2) assistance in finding a replacement; 3) continue working until replacement hired; 4) assistance with training the replacement; 5) good faith communications and negotiation; and 6) preparation of lesson plans for replacement. Id. When a teacher simply gets a better offer from another school district, good cause for abandonment fails to exist and SBEC is more likely to sanction a teacher’s certificate. (“The Commissioner has never found that accepting a more attractive job is good cause to abandon a teaching contract.” Quitman ISD v. Wilkerson, Dkt. No. 142-TTC-698 (1999)).
Check your district’s DFE (LOCAL) policy to see whether your Board has delegated the authority to accept resignations outside the 45 day penalty-free period to the Superintendent. If so, you can accept a resignation if you feel that the employee has a legitimate reason for leaving that is beyond their control (“good cause”) OR if you are able to quickly fill the position. If, however, you do not wish to accept the resignation and want to hold the teacher to his/her contract, work with your school district’s attorney to prepare the required agenda and motion language. Your attorney can also help draft the necessary correspondence to SBEC seeking sanctions for abandonment of contract.