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Under what circumstances could I lose my job?

Dear VEA Attorney:

Everyone, even President Obama, talks about firing bad teachers. I am working hard and love teaching. Could I lose my job? Why? Who decides?  

Dear VEA Member:

Virginia’s public school teachers are employed by the local school board, which makes final employment decisions. Different procedures apply to different ways that employment may be terminated. The procedures are different, for example, for teachers on continuing contract than they are for teachers on annual contract. When the termination occurs—during or between school years—can have a bearing. And certain procedures apply to terminations caused by a Reduction in Force (RIF).

Let’s start with the procedures for teacher dismissal. The grounds for dismissing a teacher are listed in Virginia Code section 22.1-307 as incompetency, immorality, noncompliance with school laws and regulations, disability shown by competent medical evidence consistent with federal law, conviction of a felony or crime of moral turpitude, or other good and just cause. A teacher shall be dismissed and face revocation of teaching license for a finding of child abuse or neglect after all appeals are exhausted.   

The statute explains incompetency “may be construed to include, but shall not be limited to, consistent failure to meet the endorsement requirements for the position or performance that is documented through evaluation to be consistently less than satisfactory.”

Now take the case of a teacher who has earned a continuing contract. Statutory procedures apply if any teacher is being fired for good cause during the school/contract year, or administrators want to terminate continuing contract for good cause. Dismissal procedures provide the teacher with notice from the division superintendent, hearing before an advisory fact-finding panel or the school board or both, and final decision by the school board on whether to terminate teaching employment. 

Note that state law provides very limited procedural protections to annual contract teachers if the school division refuses to renew teaching employment for the next school year. Statute requires timely notice and offers the teacher an opportunity to meet with the school superintendent or designee regarding any reasons. School administrators are not required to prove good cause for a recommendation against renewing the contract of a teacher who has not achieved continuing contract. 

Now consider the rules for school divisions seeking to reduce employee positions. Local school boards have broad discretion to eliminate teaching positions if enrollment declines, subjects are abolished, or because of funding. Teachers laid off in a RIF should be given a statement to that effect and be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Follow up with your UniServ Director to review whether you are annual contract teacher subject to summary nonrenewal and how teaching performance is evaluated in your school division. 




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