There is currently a bill before the Virginia General Assembly to change the contract renewal date for probationary teachers from April 15 to June 15. It is House Bill 76. The bill will also change continuing contract teachers’ renewal dates to June 15 if it passes. A regulatory policy is defined as “formalized rules expressed in general terms and applied to large groups of people. They either reduce or expand the alternatives available to those regulated” (Fowler, 2009, p. 242). This bill will create a regulatory policy because it will require school divisions to change their current teacher observation timelines. This policy will be easy to implement because it involves just moving the deadline of contract renewals by two additional months; however, I think it will affect principals greatly.
There are some positives aspects of the bill. It will allow for more time for teacher observations. In my current county, we have to let our human resources department know in early February if we are considering certain teachers for nonrenewal. Due to this short time period, you are limited on the amount of time you have to do quality observations. You have to make a decision about whether to keep a teacher, when there are still additional months remaining in the school year. If something goes wrong after April 15, you are kind of stuck. You can still place the teacher on a structured growth plan to help the teacher improve, but you will need to keep the teacher until the next April 15 deadline. With a longer deadline (June 15), you will be able to access the teacher’s ability more thoroughly.
Another advantage would be not having to inform a teacher in April that he/she will no longer have a job after the school year. Imagine having to still work with that teacher for an additional two months. The teacher’s loyalty to the school could decrease and his/her work performance may go down. There is a reason why you don’t want to renew that teacher, so why risk creating additional problems. It would be better to wait until June 15, which is closer to the end of the school year.
I am able to see some disadvantages, such as not having enough time to secure new teachers to replace the nonrenewal ones. If you wait until the June 15 deadline, you will have to begin your hiring process over the summer months. Many potential candidates may not be available for interviews due to summer vacation and some may be selected by other principals that decided not to wait until the June 15 deadline.
There is also an ethical piece to consider. As a principal, you will probably know by the beginning of 2nd semester if you plan to not renew a teacher’s contract. However, you decide to keep it a secret, fearing that if the teacher knew, he/she would “check out” early. The teacher may begin to lose interest; therefore, this could affect the learning of the students. Do you not tell the teacher, so that he/she will continue teaching to the best of his/her ability? The Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) developed six standards for educational leaders. Standard 5 states, “a school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner” (ISLLC, 1996, p.18). Are you promoting the success of the students by deciding not to tell the teacher? If the teacher already has deficiencies, will the situation get worst if he/she begins to resent the school, the students, and you because he/she is being let go? Is it unethical to go about the rest of the year talking to this teacher like everything is normal? What if it is March and the teacher that you plan to let go tells you she wants to buy a new car in a few weeks? I pose these questions because I honestly don’t know how I would answer them myself. I present myself to others by saying, “My main focus is always the students;” however, I don’t know if I could do that to a fellow educator. If I am up for nonrenewal and I wanted to buy a house, I would want my principal to let me know that I am losing my job. The information he holds could save me from a possible financial disaster.