Employment of Teachers

Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter.
Written by attorney Thomas B. Mooney.

Dear Legal Mailbag:

I have been fortunate to be the principal in a school district that provides building substitutes and I have often been able simply to assign one of my two building subs to cover for an absent teacher without having to resort to the sub list. For example, early this year, one of my veteran teachers took seriously ill and, last October, I assigned a building sub to that class to cover for the teacher. Happily, the teacher is regaining his health, and he will return to work next fall. Given these circumstances, the building sub will continue covering the class until the end of the year.

My question has to do with the building sub. Fortunately, he has his teaching certification, and he has done a great job covering the class this year. Unfortunately, the powers that be have told me that the district can’t afford building subs next year and so the sub is out of a job. We do have a vacancy for next year because another teacher has resigned for retirement purposes effective at the end of the year; and, the sub has asked me for a recommendation as part of his application for the position. I think he is great, but I don’t want to exercise favoritism in the hiring process. Rather, in this competitive environment, I want the district to find the best candidate for the vacancy.

Do you think that I can gracefully decline this request?

Thank you,
Principally Polite


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Portrait of confident professor with university students in classroomEarlier this month in the city of Pittsburg, Kansas, a group of curious student journalists raised serious questions about the credentials of their newly hired principal, Amy Robertson.  According to the Kansas City Star, Robertson had received 100 percent support from the district school board, but some of the students at the Pittsburg high school were not equally convinced.  The student journalists decided to look into the legitimacy of Robertson’s qualifications.  As the students investigated Robertson’s educational credentials, what they discovered was quite suspicious and raised red flags about the new principal’s background.

First, the students learned that her university degree came from Corllins University, which operated as a diploma factory of sorts where enrollees could buy the degree of their choice.  Later, the Kansas City Star reached out to the U.S. Department of Education and learned that the federal agency had no evidence of Corllins’ operation or closure.  Subsequently, the student journalists learned that Robertson had served as Principal at the American Scientific School in Dubai, a school receiving multiple ratings of “unsatisfactory” by Dubai’s education authority, which ultimately closed down in 2013.   Armed with revealing information about Robertson’s education and career, the student journalists wrote a news story in their school paper. Days after the release of that story, Robertson resigned.

What lesson can schools take from these Pittsburg students? When considering applicants, especially for positions that require extensive scholarship and experience, schools must do more than check off credentials.  An extra search into an applicant’s background can save a school from an embarrassing situation such as that faced in Pittsburg, Kansas. 
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200412024-001On June 17, 2015, Connecticut’s Attorney General issued an opinion concerning the “statutory limits on the compensation provided to reemployed teachers (including superintendents and other administrators) pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat.§ 10-183v(a).” Based on his analysis of the language of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-183v, the Attorney General concluded “that a teacher may be reemployed pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-183v(a) while receiving a retirement benefit from the [Teachers’ Retirement] System, but he or she may not receive compensation beyond ‘forty-five percent of the maximum salary for the assigned position.’”

Following the Attorney General’s opinion, the Teachers’ Retirement Board (TRB) released guidance concerning its interpretation and plans for implementation of provisions concerning the reemployment by school districts of retired teachers, in the form of a “Questions and Answers” publication, dated July 27, 2015. This client alert reports on how TRB will now be implementing reemployment provisions for retired teachers, administrators and superintendents (note that when the terms “teacher” or “teachers” are used in this Client Alert, the term includes certified administrators and superintendents).

The Attorney General opinion and the recent TRB guidance will significantly change the manner in which school districts may employ TRB retirees under the 45% rule. While this Client Alert provides a summary of the most significant changes, school districts are advised to consult counsel with specific questions related to the reemployment of specific individuals.


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