Liquidated Damages – Charging Teachers $750

Open Letter to Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green and Fellow Board of Education Representatives

DeKalb Teachers

The Chief Human Resources Officer reported as of July, 97 teachers notified the district they will not be returning for the 2015-16 school year, despite having initially indicated they would do so. Teachers will soon receive their final paycheck earned from the 2014-2015 school year, including those that will not be returning.  I implore the district to not charge teachers $750 for “Liquidated Damages”.
I am concerned about the potential liability for the district of a class action lawsuit regarding the merits and legality of this charge based on the structure of the DeKalb “employee contract” presented to teachers this past March.
Teachers, principals, and other certificated professionals are entitled to written contracts (OCGA 20-2-211). DeKalb County School District’s 2015-2016 employment contracts went out March 23, 2015. The employment contracts included a “Liquidated Damages Clause” in the amount of $750. As explained by the administration, liquidated damages occur to the District as a result of employees who “break a contract” and include, but are not limited to: the cost of advertising, recruiting, processing applications, criminal background checks, interviewing, orientation and training.

In the letter and documentation sent to teachers in March 2015 regarding their offer of employment for the 2015-16 school year, there was no mention or guarantee of compensation for the 2015-16 school year. There was only a citation of the compensation that was given for the 2014-15 school year. Georgia law provides that a letter of intent is not a legally binding contract (OCGA 20-2-211 (b)). Georgia law also requires that contracts shall be complete in all terms and conditions, including the amount of compensation to be paid during the ensuing school year (OCGA 20-2-211 (b)). Since teachers still have not been notified of their pay plan, I am concerned the March employment letters (labeled “contracts”) will not stand up in a court of law.
I believe we are taking advantage of teachers. Teachers are public servants who are all too often victims of district policies and procedures that impede what is in the best interest of the students and taxpayers of DeKalb. The latest Financial Report indicated the district shorted instruction by $9.7 million this past school year. DeKalb County demonstrated a lack of fidelity to its own budget, where teachers and students are concerned. We have most certainly ceded the moral high ground by extracting another $750 from these teachers. Have we not shortchanged the classroom enough?
Stan Jester
DeKalb County School District
Board of Education Representative

.pdf link icon FY2016 Teacher Employment Contract for the 2015-2016 School Year

6 responses to “Liquidated Damages – Charging Teachers $750

  1. Don McChesney

    When I was a DeKalb teacher I always had to sign a contract at the end of the year with the previous year’s salary on it. I always felt that was not very professional. Is that practice still going on? If it is I do not see ethically how the system could charge the July resigning teachers liquidated damages.

  2. This is the line that jumped out at me:
    “The latest Financial Report indicated the district shorted instruction by $9.7 million this past school year.”
    Really? THAT would make a very interesting post!! I’d like to know more!

  3. May 4, 2015 communications –
    Stan Jester: The variance report says we are $7 million under in spending on instruction. Why is that?
    Dr. Michael Bell (CFO): The first page of the March 31 Monthly Financial report indicates in Instruction we are ahead of last year in spending by $13,069,615. The Variance report compares Instruction spending to a projected position based upon the current year’s budget. It does indicate $7.1 million behind projected position. In researching this (and consulting with HR) it appears this is being caused by vacant positions in the Schools.
    August 3, 2015
    I commented during the Financial Report that we were $9.7 million under on spending on instruction. I also said that I would normally make a motion at this time to get that money back to the teachers. However, I understand the new superintendent is working on addressing this. Furthermore, I said that if he comes up with something that is only $10 million dollars then it is only giving back to the teachers what we neglected to give them this past year. Dr. Green indicated that he was working on it and understood what I was saying.

  4. Private School Guy

    I have never called that document a contract. The sad thing is that the $750 threat is costing the system more in lost potential hires and HR expenses than it is worth. It is just a continuation of the bullying attitude that has become the norm around here.

  5. Stan, the Dekalb County School System should simply drop this matter without imposing that $750 “penalty”. I agree with you and the Private School Guy that leaving out of the “document” something as important as salary really begs the question of how this can be called a “contract”. Once again, I would think that there are any number of lawyers willing to argue the teachers case and Dekalb County will pay in legal costs far more than if it just settles this specific matter. Maybe next year, we can get a new HR Director who can provide complete contracts, including salaries, to our teachers long before the 2016-2017 school year begins – then we can consider this new policy, but not this year – Dekalb County doesn’t have a case.

  6. Dekalb Inside Out

    The school district had liquidated damages in the policy last year. I’m sure a whole slew of teachers have sued over it. Any lawyer who won their case would do well by representing each and every teacher hit with liquidated damages this year. Any teachers or lawyers out there that have gone through this with the school district?