Vol. 11 No. 7
Q: We’re planning to dismiss a long-serving teacher at the end of the school year. We don’t have any documentation, though. Should we start a “warning” process now?
A: In a word, “No.” While we strongly encourage schools to implement warning/corrective action processes to address poor performance or behavior, we never recommend engaging in what would be a “sham” process (since you’ve already decided that the outcome is termination). When the outcome is already determined, we recommend that you consider:
- Having a candid discussion with the teacher, to let him/her know where he/she stands.
- During that discussion, have prepared a Separation and General Release document—which is the legal agreement you can use to offer the teacher a special severance payment.
Why severance? In this instance, because you have no documentation regarding the teacher’s poor performance, the school may be vulnerable to a discrimination lawsuit if the teacher decides to contest the termination. This risk increases exponentially if the teacher is in one or more protected classes (based on age, gender, medical/disability status, etc.). The separation agreement provides protection for the school, in that the teacher agrees not to sue the school in exchange for severance (some dollar amount above and beyond what he/she would ordinarily be entitled to).