Frederick County Public Schools asked the state to revoke the teaching certification for two FCPS instructors who left their jobs after the date allowed by their contracts, staff say.

A handful of other teachers, however, departed after this date with no consequences.

Per the teaching contract devised under the Maryland regulations, tenured teachers have until July 15 to give notice that they wish to vacate their position. This date applies to all tenured teachers in the state.

A tenured teacher is defined as an instructor who has completed three years in the classroom.

Because teachers are technically breaking a contract if they leave after July 15, a school system can request that the Maryland State Department of Education suspend that person’s teaching certification for one year, said Paula Lawton, FCPS executive director of human resources.

Most of the time, FCPS does not seek out this option, Lawton said. Of the 19 teachers who quit after the July 15 deadline, she said, only two were processed as violations because they did not offer a compelling reason for their resignation, she said.

The school system shows leniency if teachers exit for a promotional opportunity, they provide advanced notice of their resignation, their personal circumstances change or if applicants are plentiful for an open position, Lawton said.

Lawton said she is chiefly concerned with those teachers who resign to continue in the education field elsewhere. Of the 19 teachers who left, 18 continued to teach somewhere else, eight of those in other Maryland jurisdictions.

Between July 16 and July 31 of this year, nine teachers left the school system. Ten more resigned after Aug. 1, including one on Tuesday.

Despite being more than a month into the school year, Lawton said the school system did not pursue the certification suspension of the teacher who left Tuesday because advance notice had been provided.

“Some cited salary,” Lawton said of the teachers’ reasoning for leaving. “Some referenced a return to teach in a home county [because] they’ve always wanted to teach there.”

Last school year, 10 teachers resigned after July 15, four were considered violations, according to Lawton. Eight moved to another county to teach.

Teachers can appeal to MSDE to have their certification reinstated in what Lawton described as a formal process where an arbitrator hears testimony from both the teacher and the school system, she said.

The Frederick News-Post requested a list of teachers statewide who resigned post-July 15 from MSDE Thursday. An MSDE spokesman said this inquiry would be processed as a Maryland Public Information Act request, meaning MSDE must provide information within a month.

This issue of last-minute resignations persists not only in Frederick County, Lawton said, but across the state.

In Washington County Public Schools, two of the 17 teachers who resigned after July 15 had their certifications suspended by the state, said Laura Francisco, executive director of WCPS human resources. In the previous year, 14 resigned after July 15, she said.

“I can say each of the people here said in their resignations letters something like, ‘While I’ve loved my time in Washington County Public Schools, this is the job I’ve always been waiting for,’” Francisco said. “At the same time, we have people leaving to come here.”

While FCPS will not consider hiring a teacher who is already under contract in another county, said Gina Keefer, FCPS senior manager for talent acquisition and management, other jurisdictions do not follow this line of thinking.

When applying to FCPS, prospective hires must check a box to indicate if they’re already under contract with another school system. If so, FCPS generally won’t consider them, Keefer said.

This “Gentleman’s Agreement,” as Lawton described it, could be a discussion at upcoming meetings of the Maryland Association of School Personnel Administrators, a statewide coalition of school personnel practitioners, and a practice hopefully other jurisdictions could adopt, both Keefer and Lawton said.

In Washington County, if teachers state they are already under contract, then the WCPS Human Resources will seek permission with the HR department of whatever county that teacher is coming from, Francisco said.

Typically, Washington County teachers move to Pennsylvania, Francisco said, meaning they don’t require a Maryland teaching certification, so removing it wouldn’t matter much.

Lawton said that a suspended certification in one state may not affect a teacher’s ability to secure a job in another — depending on the state.

Sixteen teachers in Carroll County Public Schools left for other jobs after the deadline, and one saw their teaching certification rescinded, said Chantress Baptist, supervisor of CCPS human resources.

“I know Frederick is much like Carroll in finance structure, with lower salaries and in proximity to jurisdictions with higher pay,” Baptist said.

Indeed, Frederick County Public Schools has struggled with teacher retention, with many instructors jumping to neighboring counties for a higher salary. Many have stated that Frederick County’s starting salary is the second-lowest in the state.

The local union, the Frederick County Teachers Association fought for a raise this year, eventually securing a delayed step in teachers’ salaries come December. Pay increases have been intermittent in recent years.

The FCTA advises teachers that they are breaking a legal obligation, but as a general rule, supports teachers’ ability to make the best decision for their families, as well as the school system, said FCTA president Melissa Dirks.

Because the July 15 deadline is spelled out in state regulations, the union can’t negotiate this, Dirks said.

In recent years, Dirks said, the union has fielded many phone calls from teachers who leave for neighboring districts, even some at the last minute.

“Teachers want to take care of their families, and live in the district in which they teach,” Dirks said. “The school system can honor the teachers’ salary scale that’s in place and honor their years of experience and the amount of education and training they have by paying a competitive salary.”

Follow Jeremy Bauer-Wolf on Twitter: @jbeowulf.

(15) comments

MCEDDE21

There seems to be some confusion over use of the term "contract" as opposed to the phrase "union contract". For one thing, it is clear that the writer of this piece, Jeremy Bauer-Wolf has not used the phrase “union contract” but only the word “contract”; and then, specifically, with regard to its legal implications.

To quote: “The FCTA advises teachers that they are breaking a legal obligation, but as a general rule, supports teachers’ ability to make the best decision for their families, as well as the school system, said FCTA president Melissa Dirks.

“Because the July 15 deadline is spelled out in state regulations, the union can’t negotiate this, Dirks said.”

Thus, the July 15 deadline is a matter of law, which applies to each individual, separate and apart from any negotiable provisions of the “union contract”.

DickD

Thank you, but that means there is no contract. How can the state lock you into a requirement with your employer? Okay, the certification is issued by the State, I get that. But why the decertification of anyone leaving after the given dates? It did say something about tenure, is that part of it?

DickD

The FNP stated; "Frederick County Public Schools asked the state to revoke the teaching certification for two FCPS instructors who left their jobs after the date allowed by their contracts, staff say." If there is no contract, what is the legal obligation?

public-redux

I've never heard of a school system going after a superintendent who broke a contract.

DickD

A superintendent would not be covered by a union contract. They might have one with the County, I do not know.l

public-redux

I do know. They have contracts.

DickD

Then it must be a personal contract between the individual and the school, right?

DickD

I don't agree with anyone breaking their contract. Contracts are binding on both parties. I know there will have to be exceptions and sometimes you have no choice, but leaving for more money, after the contract dead line is not justifiable, unless it is impossible to meet the contract obligations.

Reader1954

to take their certificate is just wrong

gabrielshorn2013

Let me see if I have this straight. Both the State of Maryland and FCPS think it is OK to impede a teacher's wish to improve their situation. When exactly is a dedicated teacher supposed to start looking for another job when they are in the classroom? Most teachers would begin their search AFTER the school year ends, or else they would be taking a lot of personal time, to the detriment of their pupils. Job offers also don't come in a neat and tidy window. If a job offer is made by another jurisdiction after the "window" is closed, does that mean the teacher must forgo an opportunity? Is a teacher, or anyone for that matter, expected to turn down a new or better job because it may inconvenience their current employer? That is absolutely absurd.

recordhigh

It's called a contract. If you don't like it, don't sign it.

gabrielshorn2013

The individuals didn't, their union did. According to the story, it is also Maryland State law. So you statement should be rewritten, "if you don't like it, don't be a teacher in Frederick County, or in Maryland."

DickD

gabriel, that is the way I read it too, there is not a personal contract. For that reason, I question whether the County and State can or will take the certification from a teacher.

DickD

They can still give notice and negotiate a terminal date. If not, why would the County honor their part of the contract? You must be reasonable to expect to be treated with reason.

hayduke2

gabriel - reasonable post. Sometimes the reason is petty. I may have misread this, but 19 teachers were in this category but only two are being looked at to take their certification. Why these two.

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