Can my principal call meetings during my planning period?
Each teacher actively engaged in the instruction of children in the public schools of Texas shall have at least 450 minutes within each two-week period for instructional preparation, including parent/teacher conferences, evaluating students’ work, and planning. A planning and preparation period may not be less than 45 minutes within the instructional day.
During a planning and preparation period, a classroom teacher may not be required to participate in any other activity. A 45-minute period must be provided in its entirety without regard to any other time free from supervision allotted to the teacher for other reasons, and within seven hours after the commencement of classes for the school day.
Districts which extend the school day beyond the required seven-hour minimum for instructional purposes may include the required 45-minute planning and preparation period within that extended school day.
Preparation and planning periods must be scheduled within the time that students are being instructed in regularly-scheduled classes. A district may not extend the seven-hour school day solely to provide time for the required 45-minute planning and preparation period. Such extension can not be to provide time for extracurricular activities.
Can we be assigned other duties such as watching other classes during planning time?
No. The law is clear. However, if you are provided with more than 450 minutes for planning within a 10-day period, the time over that amount can be used by the principal for other activities.
Can we be asked to meet with parents during our planning time?
Yes. That is one of the purposes of this time. The time is also for reviewing students’ homework and for YOUR planning and preparation.
Does the district have the right to check to see if I have a criminal record?
Yes. The district must obtain criminal history information that relates to an applicant for whom an offer of employment is being considered.
No more than twice each year, the district is entitled to obtain criminal history information that relates to a person who is a current employee of the district. Criminal history record information obtained by the district shall not be released or disclosed to any person, other than the individual who is the subject of the information. However, the district must notify the Commissioner of Education of a certified applicant’s conviction of any felony or misdemeanor involving illegal conduct with a child that is disclosed in the criminal history record.
Can I be forced to get a new teaching certificate in order to teach?
A teacher must give written consent to the activation of a new certificate. A teacher who refuses to consent to the activation of a certificate may not be terminated or non-renewed or otherwise retaliated against because of the teacher’s refusal to consent to the activation of the certificate. If a certificate is activated for a teacher under these circumstances, the teacher shall be offered the opportunity to return to his or her previous assignment or an alternative assignment for which the teacher is fully certified on that campus as soon as such an assignment is available.
Can my principal require me to do duty before or after school?
Yes. The last clause of most teacher contracts states that the teacher will “perform other duties assigned by the principal.” This includes many types of duty.
What access is a parent entitled to have regarding his or her child?
A parent is entitled access to all written records of a school district concerning the parent’s child, including attendance records, test scores, grades, disciplinary records, counseling records, psychological records, applications for admission, health and immunization information, teacher and counselor evaluations, and reports of behavioral patterns. In addition, a parent is entitled to review all teaching materials, textbooks, and other teaching aids used in the classroom of the parent’s child, and to review each test administered to the parent’s child after the test is administered.
What should I do if I am not satisfied with my evaluation?
CALL YOUR ASSOCIATION! Ask questions of the evaluator to determine why he/she gave you the scores you received. Write a rebuttal explaining why you think the scores should be higher. In certain situations, you may wish to ask for a second evaluator. Ask for suggestions for improvement. Employees may present grievances regarding the appraisal process and shall receive a written response.
Can a Principal change a student’s grade?
According to Sharon Jackson of the TEA Legal Department, there are only three justifiable reasons to change a grade. They are as follows:
- An error in addition.
- Transposition of a number from the gradebook to the report card.
- Violation of district grading policy in regard to how the teacher arrived at the grade.
If the principal chooses to change the grade, he/she must have written documentation as to why. If you are requested to change a grade, you should perform the following actions:
- Ask for the reasons why the request is being made.
- Ask for any and all documentation that would support such a request.
- Make the change with a notation to the principal that you disagree with the change and will follow up after contacting your local association representative.
- UEA contacted the UIL to see how they treat grade changes. UIL officials agreed that the above information is correct, but added that if a teacher is asked to pad a few points here and there so that the student will pass, that is against the law. In some cases, teachers have been asked to do this and to let the student do extra work during the next grading period in order to make up.
I am going to have to take a leave of absence from my job. What rights do l have?
If you are sick, you have the right to use your sick leave. However, many times public school employees must take a leave which will last longer than their accumulated sick leave. If you want to stay home longer because of a newborn, the adoption of a child, family illness, or personal illness, you might want to take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
To qualify for the rights provided by this law, you must have worked for the same district for at least 12 months, you must have worked for at least 1,250 hours in the past year, you must work for a company with at least 50 employees, and there must be 50 employees who work within 75 miles of your work site. If you meet these qualifications, you are entitled to take a total of 12 weeks off work without pay, keep any health insurance you already have, and get your old job back, or a job with equal pay, status and benefits, when you return. This law covers male and female workers. However, when a husband and wife work for the same employer, the total amount of leave they may take is limited to 12 weeks if they are taking leave for the birth or adoption of a child or to care for a sick parent.
“Very sick” means you (or your family member) require hospital care or continuing medical treatment. The district may ask for proof of the illness. The law requires that, if possible, you give the district at least 30 days’ notice before taking the leave. The Board of Trustees must also grant to a certified, full-time employee a leave of absence for temporary disability at any time the employee’s condition interferes with the performance of regular duties. During this time, the district cannot terminate the employment of the employee. Temporary disability includes pregnancy. Again, this is an unpaid leave.
Can the district require me to obtain a medical examination?
Yes. The district may require an employee to have a medical examination if job performance is affected. Information obtained regarding the medical condition or history of an employee shall be maintained on separate forms and in separate files. This information shall be treated as confidential medical files.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is verbal or physical conduct that denigrates an employee or shows hostility or aversion toward an employee because of his or her gender and that has one or more of the following characteristics:
- Has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment; or
- Has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance; or
- Otherwise adversely affects an individual’s employment opportunities.
Harassing conduct includes:
- epithets, slurs, negative stereotyping, or threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts that relate to gender and
- written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group because of gender and that is placed on walls, bulletin boards, or elsewhere on district premises, or is circulated in the workplace.
What is included in my personnel file?
In addition to employee records required by TEA, the files may include evaluation reports, awards and commendations, supplemental documentation relating to job performance, leave and absence records, retirement and social security forms, health certificates and medical information, insurance forms, personal identification data, and exit interview reports.
I substituted for several years. Will this count toward my retirement?
Persons who substitute for at least ninety days a year in a position eligible for membership in TRS shall be eligible for credit for that year, if they desire to claim the year for service credit.
What should I do if I believe a special education child needs more help than is being provided?
The burden of proof for justifying increased aids and services rests with the person making the request. A teacher of a student who needs more help than is initially provided must make a request, and the teacher must have good records to show the reason for the request.
What types of leave are available?
All employees are granted 5 personal leave days a year by state law. Most districts add to these days.
Most districts also provide leave for short-term military assignments, religious observances, compliance with a subpoena, personal business, funerals, jury duty, professional reasons, and study. These leaves differ in most districts. Most districts give the superintendent the authority to grant paid and unpaid leaves in certain cases.
For more information regarding leaves, please see Board Policy DEC or call the UEA office.
Can I charge for tutoring a student in my class?
No. Teachers cannot privately tutor their own students for pay, except during the summer months.
Can I get a copy of the information in my personnel file?
All information contained in your personnel file shall be made available to you or to your designated representative under the Open Records Act. With administrative approval, you have the right to add information.
What is the responsibility of the teacher regarding modification for special education students?
The regular classroom teacher is expected to modify methods, materials, and pacing so that students with handicaps can benefit from instruction in the well-balanced curriculum within the regular classroom.
What is a grievance?
A grievance is a formal complaint which charges that a district has acted in a way which violated the law, board policy, or a sense of fairness. The purpose of the grievance policy is to provide employees with an orderly process for the resolution of complaints. It is against board policy for either the Board of Trustees or the administration to retaliate unlawfully against any employee who brings a complaint under the district’s grievance policy.
What does 22-1 mean?
According to sources at the Texas Education Agency, no teacher in grades K-4 (other than physical education or fine arts) can have more than 22 children in a single classroom.
At the beginning of each school year, a district must review class sizes and request exceptions to the Commissioner of Education for any K-4 classroom over the 22:1 ratio. A waiver request must be approved by the district’s Board of Education.
The Commissioner of Education must determine that the class size limit works an undue hardship on the district. Undue hardships could include unplanned increased enrollment, facilities limitations, availability of certified teachers, and financial difficulties. Financial difficulties is a criterion added after the last legislative session.
What is the law regarding having students grade papers?
The Supreme Court has ruled that students grading other students’ papers is not a violation of the law and calling out the grade is not a violation of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
The case was decided as a result of a class action lawsuit filed against the Owasso Independent School District in Oklahoma. In the case before the court, students would exchange papers and mark them according to the teacher’s directions. The paper(s) would then be returned to the owner. Students would have the option of calling out his own score or to go privately to the teacher’s desk with the grade.
Justice Kennedy writing for the court said, “…even assuming a teachers grade book is an education record, the Court of Appeals erred, for in all events the grades on students papers would not be covered under FERPA at least until the teacher has collected them and recorded them in his or her grade book. We limit our holding to this narrow point, and do not decide the broader question whether the grades on individual student assignment, once they are turned in to teachers, are protected by the Act.”