Nonrenewal or Termination of Your Contract

No one likes to hear those words, but you need to know what to do if it ever happens. First and foremost is to quietly find out why. It may be budgetary, revision of the curriculum or the administration may have decided your abilities don’t match evenly with their expectations. That’s a nice way of saying: “I’m sorry, but you are not progressing at the pace I expect, and we need to move on”. Although this does nothing for your self-esteem, and we’ve all been there, please remember that your career is not over, and a “lack of fit” is not always about you. Be as logical and objective as you can.

Once you determine the cause, try to be positive and constructive. Not only can you learn something about yourself, you may be able to garner support from the local administration who will develop new found respect for your healthy emotional IQ. People are watching, and an amicable separation will help your career transition and reputation. Showing anger, negative behavior or resentment never helps and will not assist in locating another position.

After you think you have a “feel” for the cause, see if there are other positions within the district for which you may be reassigned. If not, maybe an appropriate and objective reference will help as you interview for that position in the district. A reference could still help immensely if you have to begin interviewing outside the district.

As you review the following statute, remember that many applications ask if you have ever been non-renewed. You must be honest, but it is far better to have references and support from your former district.

Tennessee Code Annotated § 49-5-409 outlines the responsibility of the district to notify you of the cessation of your contract within five (5) days following the last instructional day. They actually call it “continue in such service” which means it renews without contrary notice. (See law here.)

As you seek employment elsewhere, maintain goodwill with your current district. I recommend that you also reach out to Professional Educators of Tennessee for day to day guidance during this transition. We are in touch with employment activities state-wide and in addition to our counsel, we may have knowledge of positions that are opening.

Remember: Maintain your objectivity to the greatest extent possible, and don’t leave your job without attempting to create leverage for your new position.



Michael G. Sheppard is the Associate Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee who has several decades of legal experience and expertise. Professional Educators of Tennessee is a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.


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