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Can I get fired because of a break in service?

Q: I left public school teaching when my children were young. I did tutoring, worked in private schools and kept my teaching license. Now that my children are in school, I am happy to return to full-time public school work. But I am nervous. My principal said I had a break in service that allows him to fire me.

A: I agree that you are starting over after a break in service. But that does not mean the principal can fire you.

Virginia Code section 22.1-303 B provides that a teacher who separates from teaching service and returns in one or two years can be required to serve one year probation, or annual contract. By implication, a teacher who separates from teaching service for three or more years loses the benefit of continuing contract status and is subject to three full years of probation upon return to teaching.

Regulations by the State Board of Education read a little more clearly. "If a teacher who has attained continuing contract status separates from service and does not return to teaching in Virginia public schools for a period longer than two years, such person shall be required to begin a new three-year probationary period." 8 VAC 20-430-20

You left full-time public school teaching employment for more than three years. Virginia law does not give teaching in a private school or the public schools of another state the same legal status as teaching in the public schools of Virginia.

My opinion that you are properly employed on annual contract does not mean I think the principal can fire you. State law requires notice from the superintendent, a hearing and a school board decision that there is good cause to terminate your annual contract during the school year. State law also requires you get timely notice from the superintendent before a decision not to renew your contract for next school year. I am pleased you kept up your license and joined VEA when you returned to the public schools. Please follow up with your VEA UniServ director for help.


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