At some point, circumstances may lead you to decide that you need to resign. Here’s what you need to know so you won’t suffer the consequences of “abandoning your contract.”
Contract employment means there are terms agreed upon by both the employer and employee for a designated period. A contract is an outline of obligations regarding compensation, work expectations, and causes for termination.
Public school employees who are required to have a contract include:
In any given school district, other employees also may be required to have contracts.
There are three types of contracts:
- Probationary contracts are one-year contracts — usually for the first year of employment with the district — that can be renewed for two more years. This contract can be terminated by the employer at the end of the period for any reason, and no reason must be given.
- Term contracts extend over a specified period, automatically renew, and last no longer than five years. Termination by the employer can occur only with good cause.
- Continuing contracts are continuous year to year until the employee resigns, retires, or is terminated by the employer.
Resigning While on Contract
Under the Texas Education Code, contract employees are required to resign no later than 45 days before the first day of instruction for the school year. Resigning outside this timeframe can lead to a determination that you have “abandoned your contract” and a one-year suspension of your teaching certificate.
There are some exceptions to this rule, outlined in the Texas Administration Code, for educators to resign without penalty:
- Serious illness or health condition of the educator or a close family member
- Relocation to a new city as a result of a job change for the educator’s spouse or a partner who lives with them
- Significant change in the educator’s family needs that requires the educator to relocate or devote more time than allowed by their current employment
If you want to leave your job mid-contract and you don’t qualify for one of those exceptions, you must submit a request for a contract release from the school board. The school board isn’t required to grant a release, although you can choose to abandon your contract if the release isn’t granted.
That said, if you choose to abandon your contract, the district may choose to file a complaint. An employee who has previously chosen to resign can change their mind and remain employed, depending on the resignation date and if that date has been approved by the district.
What to Do If You Need to Resign
If you’re thinking about leaving your position after the penalty-free resignation date, there are steps you can take to avoid the one-year suspension imposed by the Texas Education Agency’s State Board for Educator Certification for contract abandonment.
- Contact your local union or Associate Membership Program representative before you resign.
- Provide documentation of any illness, injury, relocation, or change in family needs before you resign and try to secure your school board’s consent to the resignation.
- Try to negotiate with your district to see if the board will accept your resignation.
If you must break your contract, these steps may go a long way toward persuading your district administration and school board to release you without penalty:
- Give as much notice as possible.
- Try to find a replacement for the district.
- Help train your replacement, if possible.
- Leave lesson plans for your replacement.
One thing you shouldn’t do: “take your principal’s word for it” that you can resign without penalty. Only the school board can release you from your contract. You need to work with your Human Resources department, not just your campus administrator.
Settlement agreements are usually done for serious allegations and not for a standard resignation. There may be other provisions that can be agreed upon. Check with your local union or the AMP service department for more information.
Things to ask for in a settlement agreement:
- Neutral recommendation
- Neither party admits to wrongdoing.
- The employee will resign on an effective date agreeable to both parties.
- The employee will drop the grievance (if there is one).
- Neither party will disparage the other.
- The heirs, family, et al, will not pursue legal recourse against the district, its employees and board member. This agreement will contain all remedies and will close the case as permissible by law (employee doesn’t surrender any federal rights, for example the right to file a discrimination case etc).
- All documents pertaining to grievance or investigation will be kept in a separate file and only revealed as per legal requirements.
Unlike contract employment, at-will employees have no contract outlining terms of their employment, including when and how it can be terminated by either the employer or the employee.
At-will employees can quit at any time, due to any circumstance — although two weeks’ advance notice is usually the expectation. Employers of at-will staff can terminate the employee for any reason at any time (besides those protected by law).
Public education employees who have at-will employment include:
- cafeteria staff
- custodial staff
- Texas Education Code Sec. 21.102 Probationary Contract
- Texas Education Code Sec. 21.105 Resignations Under Probationary Contract
- Texas Education Code Sec. 21.204 Term Contract
- Texas Education Code Sec. 21.210 Resignation Under Term Contract
- Texas Education Code Sec. 21.152 Continuing Contract
- Texas Education Code Sec. 21.160 Resignation Under Continuing Contract
- Texas Administrative Code Title 19.7.249.B