Professional Contracts FAQ
The information on this page cannot anticipate every scenario, so teachers are encouraged to ask questions BEFORE they sign a contract and call The SCEA if they need help.
COntracts: Who decides?
The local school district decides who they want to hire and issues a contract; they cannot issue or revoke certificates. The State Board of Education issues certificates once the teacher has satisfied the requirements.
COntracts, Recertification, and Teacher Evaluation
In many districts, teachers in their recertification year are under going formal evaluation. Because of this timing, there is a natural misunderstanding that a teacher must pass their evaluation in order to renew their certificate. This is incorrect. At this time, there is no connection between evaluation and certificate, except for Annual Contract teachers. If an Annual Contract teacher fails her evaluation for the second consecutive year, the certificate is suspended while the teacher undergoes a remediation process.
When WIll I get My Contract?
Under current SC law, a district can issue a contract for the upcoming year at any time but MUST issue Continuing Contracts before May 1. Do not confuse this with the annual intent forms that usually go out in January.
What if the district does not notify me about my contract by the may 1 deadline?
If a school district overlooks notifying a Continuing Contract teacher of her contract or employment status for the next year by May 1, the teacher is considered employed and the board must issue a contract to the teacher as though the board had re-employed the teacher in the usual manner.
If I am notified that I will not be offered a contract, can I appeal?
A Continuing Contract teacher who is notified that their contract will NOT be renewed and wishes to appeal this decision MUST DO SO WITHIN 15 CALENDAR DAYS from the date of the written notice. Missing that deadline may forfeit the right to an appeal. For that reason, if you are a member of The SCEA, you should call us immediately.
What if I am on Leave when contracts go out?
Teachers on leave when contracts are issued should be proactive and make sure they receive their contract. When a teacher is on leave, the district should contact the teacher to make arrangements to pick up the contract or send the contract by certified mail. It is the responsibility of the teacher to watch for the USPS notice and pick up mail promptly. The district is responsible for putting it in the mail to the last known address they have on file or otherwise making arrangements to get it to the teacher. It is the responsibility of the teacher to make sure the district has the right address and that she picks up her mail. If a teacher on leave does not receive a contract by May 1, she should contact her principal. Delays, confusion or missteps around contracts can result in serious consequences.
my principal had concerns about me teaching this year. as a result, the district is offering me an annual contract for next year.
You must be offered the correct type of contract. Teachers work to meet the requirements to move from one contract level to another, as determined by the state department. A district cannot change a teacher's contract level. For example, if you have a continuing contract, you must be offered another continuing contract each year, unless the district has grounds to terminate your employment by not renewing your contract. In that case, they must follow the Teacher Employment Dismissal Act. If you are offered anything other than a Continuing Contract, you should contact The SCEA immediately before you sign. Teachers on an Induction Contract must be offered another Induction, or an Annual if they met the requirements consistent with state regulations. An Annual Contract teacher must be offered another Annual or a Continuing Contract if she has met the requirements consistent with state regulations. Induction and Annual Contract teachers may get notice of their employment after May 1. They do not have the same appeal rights as a Continuing Contract teacher, but they do have some rights. They should call The SCEA for guidance immediately upon learning that they will not be offered employment for next year.
Most districts ask teachers to sign an intent form in January. This form asks the teacher to indicate his/her plans for the next year such as returning, retiring, and so forth. This is a good faith document but not legally binding. It is not a contract. Teachers should indicate they are undecided, if they do not feel comfortable revealing their future plans or if they do not know yet what their plans are.
when should i sign and return my contract?
If your intent is to continue working in the same district next year you must sign and return your contract before May 10.
what if I am asked to sign a contract before May 10?
Some districts issue contracts early with a promise to release a teacher if she changes her mind by a specified deadline such as June 30. This is contrary to state law and may not be enforceable. Teachers should not operate with this understanding if the promise is not in writing! If the teacher is unsure about her intentions for the upcoming year and would like to exercise her right to take all of the time the statute provides to make a decision, she should send something in writing to her district explaining that she is undecided and will respond by the deadline of May 10.
reasons to wait
Signing a contract earlier than the state deadline of May 10 could be a disadvantage for a teacher who is uncertain about returning to the same district next year. Once signed, the teacher is locked into the current district for another school year. There is no special advantage for the teacher who signs a contract early. Why? Regardless of whether a teacher signs a contract on e.g. February 10 or May 10, the contract can be revoked by the district as long as they comply with the Teacher Employment and Dismissal Act (TEDA). In other words, a district can revoke a contract at any time if they have legal grounds to do so. They must follow the procedure as spelled out in the TEDA.
there are two ways to reject the contract for next year.
Teachers can reject their contract by either resigning by May 10, effective at the end of the current contract, or by not signing and returning the new one. Teachers must be careful about using the word resignation. A resignation ends employment from the entire district even if the teacher clearly stated that she was only resigning from her school.
what if i change my mind after i sign my contract?
Once a contract is signed and returned, the district is under no legal obligation to allow a teacher to change her mind later, even if a promise was made as an incentive to encourage teachers to return contracts early. If the district's promise is in writing, the teacher's chances may be better.
what if i find a better position in another district after i sign my contract?
A district cannot enter into a contract with a teacher until she is released from her current one. Although the contract may be signed by the teacher, it is not binding until her current district has released her. Very often, vacancies around the state are not known until after contracts have been signed and returned. This presents a dilemma for a teacher who wants to accept a better offer. The district may agree to release the teacher immediately, hold her until a replacement is found, or not release her at all.
can i get out of my contract if i am leaving teaching, moving out of state, or just need a break?
Regardless of the reason, a teacher must be released by the district. Any teacher who leaves without being properly released is guilty of breach of contract. The district is required to report the breach to the SCDE and the teacher's certificate will likely be suspended. The SCDE will notify the teacher of her right to appeal the suspension and the teacher can appear before the board to ask for reconsideration. Teachers who have a compelling reason like a spouse who relocated out of state may be able to avoid suspension. Members should contact The SCEA for assistance is filing an appeal.
revised or replacement contracts
Teachers who are asked to sign a corrected, revised or replacement contract should contact The SCEA BEFORE signing anything. Teachers cannot be forced to sign a new contract and doing so without seeking legal advice could result in serious career consequences.
gut instinct and common sense
If something doesn't seem right, STOP and ask questions before you sign something. Insist that details are in writing and correct before you sign. Examples are: salary, dates, number of work days, contract level, job title, anything that is an exception to state law, extensions to sign, agreements about being released after signing, and so forth.