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Q: I am a confused new teacher. I was hired by the principal at my neighborhood school and spent a lot of time this summer planning and preparing for the class I expected to teach. But just before the start of school I was moved to a different school building and a different grade. I did not have time to redo everything, and feel vulnerable because the new principal does not know me.

A: Sorry to hear you got off to a rough start, but your experience and confusion are common. The building principal may interview you, tell you that you have the job, observe your class, evaluate your teaching, and tell you what to do. But the principal is your supervisor, not your employer. The local school board employs you as a licensed instructor.

You may proudly speak of your students, your room, your subject and your grade, but your sense of ownership is not legally protected. Virginia Code section 22.1-295 provides that teachers "shall be employed and placed in appropriate schools by the school board upon recommendation of the division superintendent." Under Virginia Code section 22.1-297 the division superintendent has the authority to assign teachers to positions in a school, and the school board can give the superintendent authority to assign teachers to any school. Moving a teacher from one school building to another, or changing the grade or subject you teach does not legally change your job or salary.

Your new principal should evaluate you but does not have final authority to fire you. You have an annual contract for the term of one school year. The school board must find good cause to terminate the contract during the school year, whether you want to quit or you face dismissal.

As a VEA member you have the support of teaching colleagues and can call on your local UniServ Director for advice and assistance. Best wishes for a great school year.

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