Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

A Quick Guide to Contract Nonrenewal and Termination

A Quick Guide to Contract Nonrenewal and Termination

Your Ally | By Lance Cain, ATPE Managing Attorney

ATPE Managing Attorney Lance Cain shares a general guide for those that wind up facing nonrenewal or termination.

Each spring, students prepare for testing and look forward to their summer break. At the same time, many educators concern themselves with renewal of their contracts for the following year. This can be particularly concerning for educators experiencing difficulties with their districts. This year-to-year arrangement substantially differs from other workplaces where—even though most employees are “at will”—they tend to enjoy a more continuous employment experience.

The resulting turnover can lead to continuity issues and make it difficult to build stable bonds. New teachers may find this particularly problematic as they seek out trusted mentorship from experienced colleagues. Having to do this year after year in a new setting is not easy.

It is also not uncommon for a campus to receive new administrators on a fairly regular basis as the previous administrators are promoted or find jobs in other districts. In some cases, new leadership may be a refreshing change to existing staff, but it can also lead to friction when new leadership comes in with unreasonable expectations or implements major changes. Unfortunately, this can sometimes result in nonrenewals and terminations.

Types of Contracts

As early as February, districts begin notifying contract educators whether their employment will be renewed for the following year. For nonrenewal purposes, the type of contract can make a big difference. An experienced educator will likely be employed under a term contract. Term contracts are usually for one year but can be longer and give the educator important rights. For one thing, a school district needs a “good cause” to nonrenew a term contract. Unfortunately, the district’s legal burden for term-contract nonrenewal is fairly low. Typically, a low evaluation, reprimand, or other policy violation is enough. But at least the educator can request a nonrenewal hearing, and if the district does not provide written notice of the nonrenewal at least 10 days before the last day of instruction, then the educator’s contract is renewed by law.

If the educator is new to teaching or new to the district, they may have a probationary contract, which offers fewer legal protections. A probationary contract is essentially a one-year employment agreement with little right to reemployment beyond that year. The 10-day notification requirement still applies, but a school district can terminate the employment in the district’s best interests without having to show good cause. Unlike a term contract, there is no right to a nonrenewal hearing. However, the probationary contract termination may be challenged through the district’s grievance process.

Likewise, spring is also when employment decisions are commonly made regarding uncontracted, at-will employees. The employee may learn of a reassignment, changes to their pay or work location, or termination. Unlike contract employees, there are no timelines for notifying at-will employees about terminations. While spring is a common time, these decisions can be communicated to them at any time during the year.

Resignation vs. Termination

Although it is not required by law, many administrators give the employee the option to resign to avoid having a nonrenewal or termination on their record. When this happens, we recommend that employees contact their professional organization for specific advice about their situation.

Regardless of whether the educator has a contract or not, there are a few general tips to remember if called into a meeting with administration to discuss nonrenewal or termination. First, try to remain calm and professional. This meeting is usually not the time to dispute the matter. Taking notes of what the administration says can be helpful. Also, because the administration will usually be asking for a resignation in lieu of nonrenewal termination, it is beneficial to ask if there is a deadline to do so. Lastly, in most circumstances, it does not benefit the educator to resign at that same meeting. At-will employees may be an exception if administration is proposing an immediate termination unless a resignation is tendered. If possible, the employee should ask to step out and contact their professional organization for assistance.

As spring marches on, our hope is that most educators will be in a position where they will not need this information. Contract nonrenewals and terminations are unfortunate but not uncommon. Whether you have a term contract, a probationary contract, or no contract at all, this should provide a general guide for those that wind up facing nonrenewal or termination.


The legal information provided here is accurate as of the date of publication. It is provided here for informative purposes only. Individual legal situations vary greatly, and readers needing individual legal advice should consult directly with an attorney. Please note: Rights based on the Texas Education Code may not apply to all. Many Texas Education Code provisions do not apply to public charter schools, and public school districts may have opted out of individual provisions through a District of Innovation plan. Eligible ATPE members may contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department.