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Chapter 5

Public School Law


William Allan Kritsonis, PhD

Almost all administrator and teacher


contracts contain a clause thats says
the superintendent can assign and
reassign at his/her discretion. The court
case of Jett v. Dallas I.S.D. (1998)
teaches one that reassignment clauses
should be written to mean what they
say.

REASSIGNMENT
(continued)
Wrongly motivated reassignments can and
usually will lead to litigation. In the court case
of Finch v. Fort Bend I.S.D. (2003) the principal
was reassigned. She felt that her new
assignment was based on the clashing with her
supervisors over internal school matters. She
filed a grievance and a lawsuit. Because the
Principal was give a memo outlining the
reasons for the reassignment, nothing
amounted of the matter of general public
concern.

Compensation
Educators salaries vary from district to district.
Each year there are increases or cut backs.
The state has a minimum pay scale that every
district must meet for their teachers, librarians,
counselors and nurses. The variation in pay
between districts comes from the districts local
supplement. The Weslaco Federation of
Teacher v. Texas Education Agency rulings
stated that as long as total compensation is not
reduced the local supplement can be.

Teacher Appraisal
Teacher evaluations were done differently in
each school district until the passing of the
1984 House Bill 72. This allowed all districts to
adopt the Texas Teacher Appraisal System to
be used across Texas. The TTAS paved the way
for the career ladder which would provide
incentives to keep good teachers in the class
room instead of moving in to administration. In
1993 legislature dismantled the career ladder
and made significant changes to the appraisal
system.

Teacher Appraisal
(Continued)
The change made by legislature paved the way
for the current system of PDAS (Professional
Development and Appraisal System). Districts
must use this system or develop their own plan
that address the areas teachers
implementation of discipline management
procedures and student performance. The plan
must be approved by the local board. The law
requires the board to accept or reject the plan
as is. The board cant modify the pan.

Teacher Appraisal
(Continued)
PDAS is based on observable, job-related behaviors.
It involves one appraisal by one appraiser. The
teacher can demand a second appraisal by a
different appraiser and also permitted to file a
written rebuttal to the appraisal. There are eight
assessing domains used in this system. Each
domain has ratings of 1 4 with exceeds
expectations being the best mark and
unsatisfactory being the worst. Koehler v.
LaGrange I.S.D. reveals that administrators are
required to verify, document and share rating with
the teacher promptly.

Grievance
In 1845 the Texas Constitution states that
citizens shall have the right to petition a
grievance. The statutory provisions guarantee
the right of public employees to peruse
grievances. The 1980s significantly changed
the scope of what was grievable and placed
responsibility of hearing grievances on the
school administration and school board. As a
result of the Malone v. Houston I.S.D. (1987)
court case, no district can fail to consider a
grievance concerning a condition of work.

Grievance
(Continued)
Stop, look and listen This is an option a
district may use when considering a
grievance, but choose not to respond to it.
The court case Wilmer-Hutchins I.S.D. (2001)
shows that it is important for employees to be
timely when filing a grievance. The timeline
starts from the day that the employee knows
or should know of the event claimed of, not
the date when the employee realizes the
legal consequences of the event.

Grievance
(Continued)
School administrators should be careful when it
comes to the rights of employees. This is an
issue that can cause a loss of employment. The
court case of Sitzler v. Babers (1992)
mentioned that a principal had told potential
employers of a former employee that the
teacher has filed three other grievances and
created chaos on the campus. The
commissioner in this court case proceeded with
reprimanding the principal and then moved to
revoking the mid-management certificate.

Same Professional
Capacity
The superintendents authority to assign and
reassign certified staff is limited by the
concept of same professional capacity.
Also, an educators probationary or term
contract will be renewed in the same
professional capacity unless the schools
district follows the procedures for nonrenewal
of contract. Fortunately, for superintendents,
same professional capacity covers a lot of
ground.

Same Professional Capacity


(continued
The key to determining an employees
professional capacity is the contract.
Administrator is a broad term, but
professional employee is even broader.
This was the main topic in the Keith v.
Tarkington I.S.D., 1991

Duties and Schedule


A reassignment does not affect the
employees title, position, or compensation,
but only the duties to be done on a daily
basis. The typical teacher contract specifies
that the teacher can be assigned and
reassigned to such duties as the supervisor
deems appropriate. Nevertheless, challenges
can be made.

Employment Benefits
Planning and Prep Period
Exactly what benefits an employee is entitled
to depends to a great extent on the actual
wording of the employment contract and the
policies of the school district.
State law does, however, set forth some
demarcations on benefits with which school
districts must comply.

Employment Benefits
Planning and Prep(continued)
Each classroom teacher is to have at least
450 minutes within each two week period for
instructional preparation, parent teacher
conferences, evaluating students work, and
planning. Each planning and preparation
period must be at least 45 minutes long, and
must be scheduled during the school day.

Employment Benefits
Duty-Free Lunch
Classroom teachers and full-time librarians
also are entitled to at least a 30 minute lunch
period free from all duties and responsibilities
connected with the instruction or supervision
of students, unless the district is faced with
such dire situations as personnel shortage,
extreme economic conditions, or unavoidable
or unforeseen circumstances.

Employment Benefits
Personal Leave
Every school district employee is entitled to
five days of personal leave per year.
Although School districts cannot restrict the
purposes for which employees take personal
leave, it can impose other restrictions.
However, school policy can restrict the timing
and limit the use of leave in other ways.

Employment Benefits
Health Insurance
TEC 22.004 requires each school district to
offer its employees health insurance. The
insurance can be provided by a risk pool
involving one or more districts, by an
insurance company, or by health maintenance
organization (HMO).
Before a district contracts with an insurer or
HMO, the latter must provide a audited
financial statement showing its financial
condition.

Employment Benefits
Health Insurance
A school district can opt to participate in the
state health insurance program, subject to
certain conditions.
School districts must certify annually to the
executive director of the Employees
Retirement System that the districts
coverage meets the requirements of the
statute.

Employment Benefits
Teacher Retirement
School districts are not required to
participate in the federal Social Security
system, and most do not.
However, Government Code 822.00I
requires every employee of Texas public
school districts belong to the Teacher
Retirement System of Texas.

Employment Benefits
Teacher Retirement

School districts may establish their own


supplementary annuity programs.

School districts may also provide various


insurance programs for their employees
paid for out of local funds.

References
Kemerer, J., Walsh, F., & Maniotis, L. (2010).
The Educators Guide to Texas School Law
(7th ed.). Austin, TX: University of Texas
Press.

Required by William Allan Kritsonis, PhD