It is that time of year again: a time that can be very difficult for teachers in Georgia who have recently received a letter notifying them that their contract has been non-renewed. As many teachers already know, the law in Georgia protects teachers who are in their fourth year within the same local school district. The law states that once a teacher accepts a school year contract for the fourth consecutive school year from the same local school district, that teacher may not be demoted or non-renewed unless for a set of specific reasons. And if demotion or non-renewal occurs, those teachers are entitled to procedural due process which includes a non-renewal hearing. Good Georgia Lawyer has written extensively about teacher rights so to learn more about your rights to a non-renewal hearing, we recommend you read our article here. Also you can read here. And here as well.
The grounds for suspension or termination are listed in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-940 and include such reasons as: incompetency, insubordination, immorality, willful neglect of duties, inciting students to violate laws, failure to maintain educational training, reduction of staff due to loss of students or cancellation of programs, or any other good and sufficient cause.
Regarding the “reduction of staff” grounds for non-renewal, one small improvement to the law happened during this year’s legislative session 2012. As a result of so many teachers facing layoffs due to our difficult economy, legislators added language which states that if non-renewal occurs due to reduction in staff (often known as “Reduction In Force” (RIF) ) due to no fault or performance issue, the local administration must specify in writing “that the termination or suspension is due to no fault or performance issues” of the employee. See: 2012 Georgia Laws Act 707 (S.B. 153).
Regardless of the reason, receiving a non-renewal letter can be a very painful and stressful experience. The important issue is deciding whether or not to choose to exercise your rights to a non-renewal hearing or not. If you are a certified teacher who is in their fourth consecutive year at a local school district, one of your decisions is whether to elect your right to the non-renewal hearing. Before you make your decision as to whether you wish to exercise your rights to such a process, it is important to seek counsel to be certain you are aware of all potential legal options.
Oftentimes, we have clients who have come to us with a certain set of facts and may not be aware that they may have various legal claims in addition to their right to a non-renewal hearing. Before you make such an important decision regarding your professional future, give us a call to obtain the legal advice you deserve.