TCTA | Asked to work over your summer break?
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Gavel, law books and scales of justice

Asked to work over your summer break?

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  • Can I be required to work in the summer?
  • What if I refuse?
  • Can I be fired?
  • Can the district just add days to my contract?

It is the final faculty meeting of the school year, and your mind begins to wander to your summer plans. In addition to some well-deserved rest and relaxation, you have registered and paid tuition for a graduate course and have made all the arrangements for a week back home that will include your parents’ surprise 40th wedding anniversary party. It should be a good summer. And, it has been a LONG SCHOOL YEAR.

The meeting moves along rapidly, covering the usual end-of-school-year topics. The principal then announces that all core subject teachers (that’s you) will need to attend a week-long summer training program on motivating students for STAAR. The training falls, as luck would have it, during the same week as your long-planned summer trip.

As you begin to raise your hand, the principal holds up her own, saying, “Before anyone even starts to make excuses, this training is MANDATORY and that decision comes from above — that means central (office). So, you better have a doctor’s excuse if you miss this training!”

Can I be required to work in the summer, beyond the end of the normal school year?

The answer depends on the answer to several other related questions. Read on…

If I have a contract that says I have to work 187 days, can the district require me to attend training that is beyond my last designated workday under my contract?

If your current employment contract specifies the exact number of days of service for the contract term, you may have a good legal argument against the district unilaterally assigning additional workdays.

What if my contract says I am employed for a term of 10 months, and nothing further regarding a specific number of workdays?

In such a case, your school district may be able to require additional workdays within the designated 10-month period, i.e., August through May. The district should compensate teachers for the extra days worked.

In many cases, a contract stating your term of employment as being the more general 10 months will include additional wording more specifically delineating your term of service. For example, “District employs the Teacher on a 10-month basis for the 2009-2010 school year, according to the hours and dates set by the District.”

Also common is wording such as “District employs the Teacher for the 2009-2010 school year for the number of days required by the calendar approved by the Board of Trustees.” In the latter case, the district has incorporated the school calendar into the terms of the employment contract. Therefore, the employee is entitled to rely upon the formally adopted school calendar for the number of workdays that may be required under his/her current contract.

My contract has similar, but slightly different wording: “District employs the Teacher on a 10-month basis for the 2009-2010 school year, according to the hours and dates set by the District, as they exist or may hereafter be amended.”

This provision may provide the district with the leeway necessary to add teacher workdays within the designated 10-month period. However, the “may hereafter be amended” wording is also questionable from a legal standpoint and may not be enforceable.

So, if my contract states or otherwise indicates a specific number of workdays, I may not be required to attend summer training. Right?

Having an exact number of working days specified in your contract is a very important consideration in determining whether the district may require additional summer work by teachers.

My principal always informs teachers that we can be required to do almost anything under the terms of our contract. Is that correct?

As addressed above, the summer training requirement may be completely outside of your contractual obligations. However, there are several other things that you might have to consider.

First, as always, read your entire contract very carefully. Do the terms of your contract specifically obligate you to attend the summer training?

In addition, most teacher contracts usually contain a fairly general clause whereby the employee not only agrees to abide by all state and federal laws, but also “District policies, regulations and directives.” In this case, the teacher will need to review all relevant policies, regulations and directives in his or her own district, including the date(s) that such were formulated.

If you are concerned about required summer training and have not yet contacted the TCTA Legal Department, this might be the time to do so at 888-879-8282. The TCTA legal staff will be able to review your current contract, as well as gather other pertinent information for you through a public information request, or otherwise provide assistance.

Last, but certainly not least, ask yourself if the training is required in order for you to maintain proper certification for your current or projected position, highly qualified status or the particular student population you serve. Such considerations may dictate that you attend the training regardless of all other facts.

A teacher’s failure to comply with contract terms, including your district’s specific professional development requirements, could be cause for serious employment consequences, including termination of employment. Not to be ignored are the intangible considerations of working cooperatively with your supervisor(s) and the potential benefits of the training itself, regardless of any other factors.

If I must attend the training, shouldn’t I be properly compensated?

In many cases, the district will pay teachers a stipend for attending the training as well as provide for other associated costs, e.g., travel, lodging and meals. In some instances, a district may pay teachers at their current daily rate, especially in return for working on noncontractual days.

If I work these extra days during the summer months, do I still have to attend staff development during the course of the school year?

Some school districts will provide teachers with the option of comping outduring noninstructional staff development workdays during the contract term in return for summer training. In other words, the teacher may be excused from duty (with pay) on such scheduled workdays. However, this will vary from district to district and from situation to situation.

So, is this is a more complicated issue than it might appear?

It certainly can be, and calls for careful review of not only your contract terms and local district policies, but also your options and other pertinent considerations. Your TCTA Legal Department is able to assist in this endeavor. So give us a call as soon as possible if this issue arises so that we may review your options and possible remedies in the timeliest manner possible.