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When are three years completed for continuing contracts?


Q: I have a question about tenure. I began working for a Virginia school division on November 11, 1999. Am I entitled to a new tenured contract on November 11, 2002 when I have completed three years of teaching service?

A: Sorry, the answer is NO. The issue has a complicated history but now the answer is clear. Continuing contract status, often called tenure, is based on teaching service not on the calendar.

Virginia Code section 22.1-303A provides, in part: "A probationary term of service for three years in the same school division shall be required before a teacher is issued a continuing contract...."

In 1974 the Attorney General of Virginia agreed with you that the statute allowed a teacher to combine two half years, or semesters, to constitute a year of service (1974-75 Opinion of the Attorney General 379).

However in 1980 the State Board of Education adopted a Regulation defining a year of service as employment for 180 or more teaching days during one school year. The Regulation (8VAC20-430-20) ended a teacher's ability to combine service over two different school years to meet the requirements for continuing contract.

VEA then lobbied for legislative relief. We argued that school divisions often hire teachers just after the start of school. The late hires, or "Labor Day Specials," missed a few days of teaching service but were denied a whole year of credit towards continuing contract. Probationary service allows school officials to evaluate a teacher before awarding continuing contract. A shorter first year did not prevent such evaluation, so it should count toward continuing contract.

In 1989 Virginia Code section 22.1-303 was amended so that a short first year counted toward continuing contract. Virginia Code Section 22.1- 303 C provides: "For the purpose of calculating the three years of service required to attain continuing contract status, at least 160 contractual teaching days during the school year shall be deemed the equivalent of one year in the first year of service by a teacher."

I believe a November hire is too late in the year to constitute a year of teaching service toward continuing contract under Virginia Code section 22.1-303C. If you complete the 2002-2003 school year, your contract is renewed and you remain in the same school division, you will be under continuing contract for the 2003-2004 school year.
Service may be counted differently for different purposes and the statute does not restrict service credit for purposes of salary or seniority. I hope your placement on the local salary scale reflects your first year of service. If you were a full-time teacher, not a long-term substitute, you should have service credit with the Virginia Retirement System. Your UniServ Director can help you check your status and service credit.


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