It’s that time of year again, when sadly, many good teachers start to worry whether their principal or school administrator will issue them a non-renewal letter regarding their teaching contract. This can often happen if the teacher has been previously placed on a Professional Development Plan, or “PDP.”
One of the biggest way principals or school districts lay the groundwork in order to try and fire a tenured teacher is by putting them on a PDP early on in the school year. Laying the “paper trail” even when the accusations against the teachers are not legitimate, is the most effective legal strategy that school districts use to try and ensure that future adverse employment action against the teacher is deemed legal and fair.
One administrator estimates that 50% of the teachers placed on a Professional Development Plan (“PDP”) are successful in completing it. School administrators know this ‘game’ when they place the teacher on a PDP. Oftentimes the end purpose is not to improve the teacher’s performance, but rather simply to have legal justification for firing the tenured teacher down the road. To do this successfully, some teachers end up being set up for failure by being placed in a no-win situation.
If you are a tenured teacher who has been placed on a PDP, it is vital that you immediately seek competent, legal counsel in order to begin to fight the one-sided paper trail that will be used to justify non-renewal of your teaching contract from day one.
It is also important to educate yourself on your legal rights as a Georgia teacher. For example, if a school board terminates, suspends, or demotes a teacher in the middle of a contract year, the teacher has a right to be represented by counsel during a hearing – even if the teacher is not tenured (O.C.G.A. 20-2-940). If a school board attempts to non-renew a tenured teacher’s contract, the teacher again has a right to a non-renewal hearing. (O.C.G.A. 20-2-942).
Good Georgia Lawyer has written about the rights of teachers relating to employment termination and contract non renewal which we recommend you read here and here.
The important thing is to act sooner rather than later if you are a teacher facing a potential adverse employment action. All too often, human beings procrastinate rather than dealing with the scary things in life that we don’t want to have to face such as the loss of a job in this difficult economy. As a result, clients are oftentimes calling us after the fact rather then early on when it is much easier to help them.
Don’t end up in a case of too little, too late. The sooner an attorney is on your side, the better the chance your employment as a teacher in a challenging work environment will have a successful outcome.
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