Teacher Contracts – Part III

Well, the deadline to sign your “contract” for next school year (2014 – 2015) has come and gone.

Inquiring minds want to know: Did you or didn’t you? If not, why not?

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If you did not sign the “contract,” we hope you will be willing to complete a short survey. You will not be asked for any specific identifying information. The survey may be completed on your home computer. Simply click here to download it and open it in Microsoft Word. Then place your cursor over the check boxes you select or at the beginning of the line where you will type a brief answer. After completing the survey, please save it and e-mail it to dekalbschoolwatch@gmail.com or save it, print it and mail it to DeKalb School Watch, POB 660221, Atlanta, GA 30341.

Please do NOT use a DeKalb County Schools computer (even a DCS laptop you take home) or DeKalb County Schools printer or a connection to DeKalb County Schools high speed Internet to complete the survey. Even if you are using your personal laptop or tablet and personal e-mail (i.e., Gmail or Yahoo, etc) do NOT use a DCS computer, printer or high speed Internet connection.

If you do not have a personal computer at home, use a public computer in a DeKalb County Public Library. If you have a personal laptop or tablet but no Internet connection at home, you may connect to the Internet at a DeKalb County Public Library or at McDonald’s or Starbucks.

As a reminder, per § 20-2-211(b) in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.):
Upon request, a written explanation for failure to renew [a certificated teacher’s] contract shall be made available to such certificated personnel by the executive officer. When such notice of intended termination has not been given by [April 15 for school year 2014-2015, only] the employment of such teacher or other certificated professional employee shall be continued for the ensuing school year unless the teacher or certificated professional employee elects not to accept such employment by notifying the local governing board or executive officer in writing not later than [May 1 for school year 2014-2015, only].

HB 244 becomes effective July 1, 2014 and the dates shown above will change to from April 15 to May 15 and from May 1 to June 1.

In spite of what Ward-Smith claims, the Georgia Professional Standards Commission says this in its Ethics FAQs about the breaking the “contract” you signed:
“A school system can report an educator at any time, but it does not always result in a sanction against the educator’s certificate. The Commission has decided that it would not sanction an educator for Abandonment of Contract if:

  • The Educator submits a letter of resignation prior to June 1st for the upcoming school year.
  • The Educator submits a letter of resignation with at least a two week notice after June 1st for the following reasons:
    • A documented personal health problem or family medical problem that requires the Educator’s full-time care and attention.
    • A documented spousal transfer and relocation out of a reasonable commuting distance of the contracted position.
    • A documented promotion within the field of education.”

The way we read GaPSC Ethics FAQs, (and we must emphasize that we are not lawyers and are not giving legal advice), teachers who signed a “contract” have until May 31 (i.e., prior to June 1) to submit a letter of resignation to DeKalb County Schools without fear of sanction by GaPSC.

The way we read O.C.G.A. § 20-2-211(b) (and we must emphasize that we are not lawyers and are not giving legal advice), when notice of intended termination has not been given to teachers by April 15 for 2014-2015, only, the employment of teachers will be continued for the ensuing school year unless the teacher or certificated professional employee elects not to accept such employment by notifying the local governing board or executive officer in writing not later than May 1 for 2014-2015, only.

Although DeKalb County Schools is bound by the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, enforcement is another matter.  We are not qualified to give legal advice and we strongly suggest that you seek the advice of your attorney. We encourage teachers to read the law, then use any legal benefits you have with your professional educators organization membership — or through legal benefits paid for by payroll deduction or any other payment plan — and seek the advice of a qualified attorney.  Or contact a qualified attorney on your own.  You need to understand the law, know your rights, and know how enforceable your rights are.

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About dekalbschoolwatch

Hosting a dialogue among parents, educators and community members focused on improving our schools and providing a quality, equitable education for each of our nearly 100,000 students. ~ "ipsa scientia potestas est" ~ "Knowledge itself is power"
This entry was posted in Budget Cuts, DeKalb County, Georgia, Education in the South, GA Legislature / Laws / O.C.G.A., Michael Thurmond, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Teacher Contracts – Part III

  1. concerned citizen says:

    This is an excellent survey to show the true status of us in DeKalb – as taxpayers and employees. DSW, this survey is set up very well to protect the teachers from retaliation. Doesn’t it seem crazy that the system does not protect its teachers? It’s incredible on the face of it. I’m very hopeful that all who see this survey will respond. HR should have done some version of this at the beginning of this school year, but of course, they are the problem.

  2. thedeal2 says:

    I would so appreciate it if teachers who plan to leave will fill this out. HR just tells everyone it’s normal attrition and never releases any other information.

  3. Anonymous for this Particular Post says:

    I did sign, but that does not mean I will stay. DeKalb has actually given everyone an out this year with the $750 penalty. I know a counselor that got a job in Fulton last year, but did not leave due to not being let out of her contract. This clause now gives us all an out.
    The main reason myself, and many colleagues did sign, is that no one wants to be unsure about a job. If you have a family to feed, it seems irresponsible to quit a job before securing a new one. As a teacher, the window of applying is small. And if you are not employed by the start of school, chances are very slim that you will get a job that year.
    Another question to ask would be, of those that signed, how many are still actively seeking employment elsewhere?

  4. concerned citizen says:

    Is there really anyone who is staying of his/her own free will? If so, why would anyone pass up major money and benefits? Teachers and principals do have a choice of neighboring systems, after all. Could any professional person be satisfied with DeKalb’s treatment of its teachers and administrators? Good luck to you and others who need to get out, Anonymous. And please fill out the survey so that HR will not be able to continue to lie – to call this “normal attrition.” It certainly is not “normal” to fail so in-your-face as a system. We must have some action on getting HR in line! A new supt. would be the most important thing, but I, like Howdy, smell a rat. When you can’t name even one outstanding employee of the Palace’s top ranking people, isn’t that deplorable?

  5. concerned citizen says:

    I read with interest McChestney’s take on the board’s retreat. He shed some insightful comments on the content of the meeting! A total waste of time – the bottom line; they do nothing, say nothing, don’t bother to show up for their own meetings! Not an impressive group…thanks, Gov. Deal, for these highly unqualified board members. My dog could do a better job than these bozos.

  6. concerned citizen says:

    Can anyone explain Dr. Smith’s repeated “yes, sirs” in response to Orson’s questioning about the number of teachers who left? It’s a very silly thing to see/hear a grown woman fawning all over the board and the supt.!On top of the horror show she put on, she was out and out lying. And the repeated references to working over the week-end and with Thurmond, too. How ludicrous! It’s her job to work, isn’t it? Now, to work well and with honesty is another matter entirely. I heard her tell Orson that all the 138 unfilled positions would be filled with certified in field subs!!!!! Does anyone believe her? Documented facts are an HR head’s first responsibility. The FACTS are, Dr. Smith, that 800 teachers LEFT! How can you continue to lie to the citizens of the county? And with the supt’s blessing, obviously. AT THE VERY LEAST, can you quit saying, “yes, sir,” every two minutes? It’s disgusting to see such ass kissing.

  7. IntheTrenches says:

    @Anonymous for this Particular Post:
    “The main reason myself, and many colleagues did sign, is that no one wants to be unsure about a job. If you have a family to feed, it seems irresponsible to quit a job before securing a new one.”

    Although I understand the point you’re making here I disagree. I’m a single mother whose dedicated over 2 decades to this system and I can tell you authoritatively that getting a job-of any kind, especially outside of teaching when that’s all you’ve done since forever- is very hard. It’s primarily difficult because society judges veteran teachers as having limited skill sets that don’t lend themselves to other careers. Of course, just the opposite is true but good luck convincing non-educators that. Also, as you get older you’re judged for that as well.

    Regardless of all of that however, I simply could not dignify the DCSD by putting my signature on that rag they have the nerve to call a contract, and so as of 5 PM last Friday I said “Adios, DeKalb!” I wish more of my frightened colleagues had the courage to do the same but again, I get it. My kids have done nothing for the last 3 days but tell me how proud they are of me for standing my ground and moving on and by doing so I think I’ve inadvertently taught them one of life’s most valuable lessons…

    “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on it’s own wings.”

    (PS…that “branch” I’ve been sitting on for the last couple of decades is looking pretty dead and will just snap any minute anyway so it’s time to fly!)

  8. Done says:

    Thank you for asking the real reasons why I did not sign my contract. No one else did.

  9. It's about the kids says:

    @Anonymous for this Particular Post -If you signed, DeKalb can still go after your certificate. The $750 is just an additional penalty. Check with your lawyer before the May deadline.

  10. Don for DeKalb is Don McChesney’s blog site. Go there to read his very revealing article about the recent DCS school board retreat.

  11. @ It’s About The Kids and @ Anonymous for This Post: In spite of what Ward-Smith claims, the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GaPSC) says this in its Ethics FAQs about the breaking the “contract” you signed:
    “A school system can report an educator at any time, but it does not always result in a sanction against the educator’s certificate. The Commission has decided that it would not sanction an educator for Abandonment of Contract if:

    1. The Educator submits a letter of resignation prior to June 1st for the upcoming school year.
    2. The Educator submits a letter of resignation with at least a two week notice after June 1st for the following reasons:
      a. A documented personal health problem or family medical problem that requires the Educator’s full-time care and attention.
      b. A documented spousal transfer and relocation out of a reasonable commuting distance of the contracted position.
      c. A documented promotion within the field of education.”

      The way we read GaPSC Ethics FAQs, (and we must emphasize that we are not lawyers and are not giving legal advice), teachers who signed a “contract” have until May 31 (i.e., prior to June 1) to submit a letter of resignation to DeKalb County Schools without fear of sanction by GaPSC. As always, it is in your best interests to seek advice from a qualified attorney — and you should do so.

  12. Frustrated Dekalb Parent says:

    As a parent with a child in the DeKalb system, I for one, would like to thank those teachers that have committed to stay. My daughter has great teachers in her school and I know most parents appreciate them. I know things are awful in the district for teachers but many parents, including myself, are calling the board and administration out on the way teachers are being treated. We are starting to see change, although I know it is late. I am still hopeful that a good board will be elected in May and that the district will get a qualified superintendent ready to make tough but good decisions.

  13. Thank you. Please complete a survey and ask your colleagues to who did not sign a contract to complete one, also. It is just one page, does not ask for any personally identifiable information, and it may be e-mailed to DSW or mailed to our PO Box.

  14. Concerned Dekalb Mom says:

    Is there any way to post the #’s you are receiving for your poll at the top? It would put the percentages into perspective.

  15. Anonymous to protect myself says:

    I signed my contract because, as a specialty teacher, there are many less jobs out there for anyone in my field. In addition, I happen to be in a good place with great colleagues. When we block out all the craziness of the district and our administration, we are able to get a lot of great teaching done. We are appreciated by our students and our community, even if our administration marginalizes us and our district tries to run us off. The community and the students are worth it, at least at this point.

    I must say that this is only short term; that the working environment can only buoy me for a year, two max, and if things are not settled by then, I will leave.

  16. September says:

    Experience is usually an asset when you are job hunting. Unfortunately, if you are an older teacher with lots of experience, you may have more trouble leaving DeKalb. A lot of systems prefer younger teachers with a few years of experience. They are less expensive. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it is harder. DeKalb might get lucky and keep some good teachers for this reason. Too many years on the job to move on but, not enough years to retire.

  17. TeacherK says:

    If you submit a resignation letter prior to June 1st, it would be a good idea to submit it via Certified Mail, Return Receipt and Signature Required. That return receipt would be clear evidence of when DCSD received the resignation and who signed for it. Not legal advice, just a common sense measure to consider.

  18. Done says:

    Actually, if you look at the Salary Scale on the county website, a new teacher with no experience earns $40,0000 and those of us with 14+ years only make $8,000 more. The county claims to have competitive salaries, which is true if you are new; experienced teachers have not had a step increase or raise for several years. It’s the spin.

  19. @ TeacherK: Good suggestion! As an extra step to consider you might also want to submit a copy of your letter of resignation, clearly marked as “Copy” (office supply stores sell a “Copy” stamper for a few dollars), to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. As with DeKalb County Schools, submit it Certified Mail, Return Receipt and Signature Required. The post office will give you a receipt for each letter you send that will be officially stamped with the date it is sent. Make sure you carefully save all of this documentation. For example, in addition to saving the paper copies, go to an office supply store or copy store and have everything scanned into a file you can put on your home computer. Again, this should in no way be construed as legal advice; just a commonsense way to protect yourself.

  20. @Frustrated DeKalb Parent: You said, ” We are starting to see change, although I know it is late.” Would you please list some of the things you are seeing positive change in at your school? We’d appreciate knowing…

  21. Sadly, we agree. DeKalb County Schools has demonstrated repeatedly that they can and will do whatever they want. The Georgia Professional Standards Commission’s (GaPSC) Ethics FAQs state:

    “A school system can report an educator at any time, but it does not always result in a sanction against the educator’s certificate. The Commission has decided that it would not sanction an educator for Abandonment of Contract if:

    “The Educator submits a letter of resignation prior to June 1st for the upcoming school year.
    “The Educator submits a letter of resignation with at least a two week notice after June 1st for the following reasons.
    “[1] A documented personal health problem or family medical problem that requires the Educator’s full-time care and attention.
    “[2] A documented spousal transfer and relocation out of a reasonable commuting distance of the contracted position.
    “[3] A documented promotion within the field of education.”

    We agree with It’s About The Kids: “Check with your lawyer before the May deadline.”

  22. We get it. We are all parents whose children are in or have gone through DeKalb County Public Schools. We know the value of great teachers. Actually, great teachers are priceless. Most of us are also products of public schools and can remember with clarity the teacher or teachers who made a significant difference in our lives. Could you in good conscience, though, ask teachers to possibly continue putting your child or children ahead of their own families and their own personal, professional and financial well-being?

    Teachers and their families make do with less every year that the cost-of-living rises without teachers getting well-deserved and earned raises. Teachers who stay with DeKalb County Schools also may be foregoing a secure and comfortable retirement because the tax sheltered annuity (TSA) that was supposed to take the place of Social Security was abruptly ended. Even teachers who have the required 40 quarters of paying into Social Security and may have earned a substantial salary in the private sector before switching careers and going into education will find their Social Security benefits cut significantly when they retire from DeKalb County Schools (or any other organization that does not pay into social Security) due to the Windfall Elimination Provision in Social Security rules. This holds true even for teachers who expect to claim their Social Security benefit based on a spouse’s high earnings. A spousal benefit is already only 50% of said spouse’s Social Security benefit — and then that 50% is significantly cut by the Windfall Elimination Provision, which applies even to spousal benefits. We know this to be true because it happened to one of us.

    Teachers who think it is hard to find a job as an older teacher should try it as a much older retiree.

    So, meanwhile, parents please show your appreciation for your child(ren)’s teachers in tangible ways. Here are some suggestions:
    1. Bring each of your child(ren)’s teachers a ream of copy paper every time you come into their school(s) — or, at the least, when you come in for quarterly or regular conferences.
    2. Bring each of your child(ren)’s teachers a bundle of school supplies — whiteboard markers, chalk (including colored chalk), pens, pencils, staples, boxes of tissue, rolls of toilet paper, liquid soap, liquid hand sanitizer, etc.
    3. Take the initiative and organize each classroom so that teachers have a daily parent classroom helper — even for just a few hours a day — to read with or to small groups and to do other small group activities.
    4. Take the initiative and organize each classroom so teachers have an after-school parent helper for grading multiple choice tests, recording grades and filing.
    5. Volunteer to make copies for your child(ren)’s teacher(s) each week — and bring a ream or two of copy paper to feed the copy machine.
    6. Do you have a special skill such as art, writing, computers, engineering, etc? Ask your child(ren)’s teachers how they can use your skills.
    7. Ask what other assistance or supplies your child(ren)’s teachers need — and deliver on those needs.
    8. Last, but not least, remember the counselors and media specialists and teachers who travel between schools (using their own cars). They are all certified professionals and they need your help, too.

    Teachers, counselors, media specialists and other certified personnel: jump in here and tell us what else you need or would be nice to have so you can be more effective in the classroom without reaching into your own pockets.

    Parents who are grateful that their child(ren)’s teachers have stayed with DCS (possibly putting the teachers’ own personal, professional and financial needs and goals on hold) MUST step up and assist in tangible, quantifiable ways. NOW. You MUST put your money (and time and skills) where your mouth is.

    We will step down off our soapbox now …

  23. Another comment says:

    I used to warn employees who reported to me, that don’t even use your own laptop, or wireless device at work. Since the mid 1990’s even IT systems that employees think of their employers have,, have had key stroke programs on them. So that means if you get on their WIFI even as a visitor , using your IPAD on WIFI, rather than paying for AT&T or Versions network.

    I am always shocked at the number of people shopping, web surfing at work. Even on their own cell phones.

    People would laugh at me when I told them,,but I was in the upper level management meetings where IT would get approval for these programs 20 years ago.

  24. From EdWeek:

    In a fast-moving panel discussion at George Washington University in Washington, a group of educators joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Monday in an effort meant to convince attendees on the merits of teaching.

    For the last question to the panel, Johnson asked each guest to come up with a 30-second pitch for why to enter the teaching profession, given its well-known challenges. They highlighted four reasons:

    Diversity: Student populations tend to be much more diverse than the teaching profession. According to federal data, 40 percent of K-12 students are not white, compared to just 17 percent of teachers. Cunningham noted what message she thought it sent when a black child enters a STEM classroom any given year and only sees white teachers.

    Empowerment: Not in the sense of holding authority over your students, but in the sense that teachers, helping to shape the nation’s youth—and the nation’s future—push themselves to improve.

    Challenge: Teaching doesn’t lack for professional difficulties (reread the first few paragraphs of this post if you’ve forgotten). But there’s also the challenge of finding ways to ensure all students are learning, the panelists said. That might be especially true for those teaching students with special needs, or English-language learners, or students just starting the class year behind their peers.

    Fulfillment: There were a few dozen easily quotable snippets from all the panelists about how great it is to know that you’re reaching a student, and how rewarding it is. That doesn’t put food on the table, they noted, but it feels really good.

    TEACH.org hosted the panel.
    Read more>> http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_now/2014/04/why_teach_here_are_the_best_answers_experts_could_give.html

  25. Weary Worker says:

    OK I signed I have less than three years left and I’m at a functioning school. Some things I would like to know as I and all other educators are assailed with threatening emails regarding contracts is how many teachers who have broken contracts have had their credentials pulled by the PSC? After so many years of hearing this I find the four reasons allowed for breaking contracts strange. First having a spouse gives you get out of contract free card, secondly what is a promotion in the field of education, does a part time instructor position at a proprietary school count? Third can I count my mountain cabin as my residence so it put me at a distance where I can break contract? All this seems flimsy to me. The bigger part is would a doctor, barber or any other state licensed professional lose their credentials over a matter of employment not a matter of the functions of their profession? The way hairstylists drift in and out of salons there would be no one with a license to cut hair left in the state. Think about it.

  26. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Cobb school officials are reportedly aiming to decrease classroom sizes, increase employee pay and end furlough days. The Cobb school budget proposes a 1 percent pay raise for teachers and other employees. It also recommends the hiring of some 200 teachers to reduce class sizes as well as an end to furlough days. Students would be back to a full-time, 180-day calendar under the proposed budget.

  27. concerned citizen says:

    The comparison is not too great, is it? What do we have in DeKalb? Nothing, not even classroom supplies such as PAPER.

  28. Another comment says:

    @weary worker do you file your taxes from your mountain cabin ? Is your Homestead exemption taken at your mountain cabin? Do you vote in the district of your mountain cabin? Are your vehicle registered in the county of your mountain cabin? Do your children go to school based on living at your mountain cabin. Sorry you own homes you crap out of luck. If you were an apartment dweller or better yet consider home less you can say you live anywhere and move constantly. But then again what kind of parent moves their kids multiple times every school year.

  29. Word Wall says:

    Cobb County sounds like they have a clue…. modest raises, full calendars and new hiring to bring down class size. Dekalb is out of step as usual….

  30. concerned citizen says:

    To Word Wall, DSW, and myself: Who in the world is the troll who votes down our comments about the lack of basics for teachers in DeKalb? Please, be man or woman enough to identify yourself! Wow! You certainly do not work as a member of DeKalb Schools teachers and staff. If you were, you could not vote down these comments. COWARD! Please respond.

  31. I just posted this over at Maureen’s Get Schooled blog (http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2014/apr/01/dekalb-imposes-penality-teachers-who-quit-last-min/) — it is the 136th comment under that article:

    The $750 fine is tax deductible.

    See IRS publication #529 (http://www.irs.gov/publications/p529/ar02.html) for the specifics. A teacher that itemizes his/her deductions can deduct the $750 from their federal income taxes as “Damages Paid to Former Employer for Breach of Employment Contract”.

    The trick is that the total of the teacher’s “Unreimbursed Employee Expenses” have to be at least 2% of their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). The IRS list of eligible expenses includes:

    (1) Dues to Professional Societies: I assume Organization of Dekalb Educators (ODE) dues qualify.

    (2) Educator Expenses: Eligible Educators can deduct up to $250, per http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc458.html

    (3) Job Search Expenses in your Present Occupation: Just keep track of how much you spend on resume printing, postage, etc.

    Basically, if
    ($750 + $250 + Professional Dues + Job Search Expenses ) > 2% of your AGI
    then you may deduct all those expenses from your federal taxes.

    Here’s an example: let’s assume a DCS teacher has an AGI of $60,000. 2% of that AGI is $1200. That DCS teacher will easily exceed that $1200 when they add up the $750 fine + $250 educator expenses + ODE Dues + Job Hunting Expenses

    Since 99% of DCS teachers have AGIs of under $60,000, DCS teachers will have no problem deducting the $750 fine from their federal taxes!

  32. Thank you, dsw2contributor! This is very timely. How clever of you to think to check the IRS rules! We had not considered the possibility that the $750 fine is actually tax deductible. Since Georgia’s state income taxes are based on federal income taxes after deductions, then this fine and related expenses you described, essentially means that teachers who are affected will be paying less taxes to the State of Georgia, as well.

  33. Pingback: Who Will Tell Your Story? | dekalb school watch two

  34. anonymous teacher says:

    It states that the $750 can be taken from your last paycheck. Will that change the ability teachers have to claim the loss as a deduction? Also, what is a “reasonable commute”?

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