Open Letter to Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green and Fellow Board of Education Representatives
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?
DeKalb County School District
Board of Education Representative