Probationary Teacher Nonrenewal Reminder

As the end of the school year quickly approaches, school administrators are reminded that they must make important personnel decisions about the contin­ued employment of probationary teachers and follow the timelines and procedures to nonrenew a proba­tionary teacher’s contract. Acting outside of those timelines and procedures may result in an unintended contract extension or a teacher acquiring tenure.

Probationary Period

Teachers hired on or after July 19, 2011, must serve an initial five-year probationary period and re­ceive an "effective" or "highly effective" evaluation rating on the three most recent evaluations before acquiring tenure. This five-year probationary period, however, may be reduced to four years if a teacher has been rated “highly effective” on three con­secutive annual year-end performance evaluations.

If a teacher previously acquired tenure with another Michigan public school district, the probationary period is only two years.

School officials must accurately compute the probationary period and apply the correct timelines for nonrenewal. Different timelines apply depending on the hire date or if a leave of absence or layoff inter­rupts the probationary period. In such circumstances, the hire date determines the procedural timeline for the nonrenewal notice. Schools officials may want to implement a system or chart that identifies each teacher's hire date and expected date of acquiring tenure.

Nonrenewal

The Teachers' Tenure Act states that “before the end of each school year, the controlling board shall provide the probationary teacher with a definite writ­ten statement as to whether or not his or her work has been effec­tive.” The Michigan Supreme Court has es­tablished June 30 as the uniform date for the end of the school year.

For a probationary teacher who previously acquired tenure in another Michigan school district and is on the two-year probationary cycle, the nonre­newal notice must be received at least 60 days before the end of the school year (i.e., April 30). Oth­erwise, the nonrenewal notice must be received at least 15 days before the end of the school year (i.e., June 15).

School officials must allow sufficient time for the school board to take public action to nonrenew the probationary teacher’s contract and to provide written notice to that teacher in compliance with the Tenure Act.

The belief that a school board “grants” or “bestows” tenure on a probationary teacher is incor­rect. Rather, a probationary teacher automatically acquires tenure by operation of law upon the success­ful completion of the probationary period unless the school board ter­minates the contract for cause or timely acts to nonrenew the contract. Although nonre­newal is within the board’s discretion, school officials must comply with statutory procedures, timelines, and criteria to successfully nonrenew a probationary teacher. For example, school officials must ensure that an IDP has been in place each year beginning at the start of the probationary period and that the probationary teacher has been provided with multiple classroom observations consistent with the Teachers' Tenure Act.