Know Your Rights Concerning Intent
Letters of intent are no laughing matter, and PK-12 educators should be aware of their rights. But educators can relax a little bit if their school district has distributed those letters this early in the school year.
School districts can distribute letters of intent, which ask teachers to declare whether they plan to continue employment with the district for the next school year. However, educators are not required to sign the letter before March 15, said NSEA Director of Advocacy Trish Guinan.
State statute allows school districts, on or after March 15 each year, to require certificated employees – teachers, counselors, speech pathologists, psychologists and others – to sign binding letters of intent and/or individual contracts. Those letters signify whether the teacher intends to return for employment the following school year.
In recent years, teachers have been asked to declare intentions early, said Guinan. Some administrators have sent letters as early as mid-January. In rare instances, letters have been sent out before Jan. 1, sometimes asking for response within 10 days.
Guinan says state statute is clear: “A school district cannot require teachers to make a commitment before March 15.”
However, failure to sign and return the letter by stated deadlines that fall on March 15 or later is a serious threat to a teacher’s employment.
State Statute 79-829, which addresses permanent certificated employees and contracts, says, in part, “the certificated employee shall not be required to signify such acceptance prior to March 15 of each year.”
Guinan offers this advice: If administrators distribute such a letter/contract prior to March 15, and ask for its return prior to that date, a local association representative should fax a copy to Guinan or their assigned organizational specialist at the NSEA (1-402-475-2630). In the meantime, an appropriate response to the letter by teachers is “I don’t know yet” or “I’m not sure.”
If the letter is distributed on or after March 15, or asks for a return after that date, it’s important to sign the letter and turn it in by the due date.
Questions? Call your NSEA organizational specialist, or Guinan, at 1-800-742-0047.