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San Antonio ISD Switches To Shorter Contracts For Future Teachers

A science classroom at YWLA Primary during a meet-the-teacher event Aug. 9, 2019.
File Photo | Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
A science classroom at YWLA Primary during a meet-the-teacher event Aug. 9, 2019.

Teachers hired by the San Antonio Independent School District will no longer be eligible for continuing contracts starting in September.

The SAISD board voted Monday to offer the teachers term contracts instead.

Continuing contracts are kind of like teacher tenure — they continue indefinitely. Term contracts have to be renewed every year or so.

The main difference on a practical level is who decides whether it was fair to let a teacher go. State law allows teachers under continuing contracts to request a hearing from an independent examiner if they lose their job. School boards preside over the hearing themselves if they decide not to renew a teacher’s term contract.

Longfellow Middle School teacher Veronica Goldbach told the board before the vote that having a continuing contract protects her from administrator retaliation.

“Right now I am blessed to work with (the principals at Longfellow).They support and value their teachers,” Goldbach said. “But in my 16 years of teaching that has not always been the case for me. I’ve had administrators dislike me because of my last name or because my classroom doesn’t look like the class next door.”

Toni Thompson, SAISD’s associate superintendent of human resources, said all teachers will still have the right to file grievances and that the policy change is meant to align the district with the policies of most other districts in the state.

“When we asked (The Texas Association of School Boards) to survey the data for us awhile back, out of 267 districts who responded to TASB’s survey we were the only one that was still offering continuing contracts,” Thompson said. “The other districts started making their changes as far back as 1987.”

SAISD teacher union president Shelley Potter said that logic doesn’t make sense.

“Since when do you want to be like other districts? I’ve sat in this board room and heard you over and over talk about not doing what every other district does,” Potter said. “As more and more teachers in the district have less due process they will be less likely to speak up on behalf of what is right for students out of fear of being fired.”

Before the board voted unanimously to switch to term contracts, Board President Patti Radle said that due process for teachers will still be in place.

“Just to reiterate our attitude towards grievances, whoever it is, for whatever reason: This board has a history of taking them very seriously and would continue to do so,” Radle said.

She also emphasized that the change will not affect current employees. New teachers hired before Sept. 1 will also be given continuing contracts once they’ve completed their probationary years.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter at @cmpcamille.