Feb 13

Defending a teaching certificate is an educator’s right

Sometimes life interferes with the best-laid plans.

That’s what happened when one metro Atlanta teacher followed the process as she understood it to quit one teaching job to take another closer to her home. To her, it was not a rash decision, but one made in the best interest of her family.

That’s not how one school system saw it, and the educator found herself embroiled in a Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GPSC) investigation. Charged with breach of contract, the mother of two young children relied on CNO’s Bettina Davies to guide her through the legal maneuverings required to transition from one job to another — and protect her teaching certification in the process.

“In most workforces, you’re allowed to resign,” says Davies, a network attorney for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. “In this case, circumstances were out of her control, and a school system was threatening her career great harm.”

The well-respected special education teacher, who signed a contract in the Spring to continue in her position, lived about 25 miles from her school. Factoring in metro Atlanta morning traffic, that distance could mean up to an hour commute. Like many couples, she and her husband shared child duties — he was responsible for the morning routines; she picked up the afternoon routines.

In late June, her husband’s job changed to require significant travel each month, leaving the teacher responsible for the bulk of morning duties related to the children. It was an impossible situation, so she resigned to accept a new teaching job close to her home. She also paid the $1,000 penalty required under her teaching contract.

That wasn’t acceptable to the school system she resigned from, and its administrators claimed that she breached her contract and should be sanctioned by the GPSC. Her teaching certification was threatened, as was her new teaching position.

Davies stepped into action, documenting the steps taken by the teacher and representing her in her case with the GPSC. The commission recommended that the teacher’s certification be suspended for 90-days, a move that would have almost certainly resulted in the withdrawal of the offer to teach at the school close to her home.

Unacceptable.

Davies refused the suspension recommendation, offering to take the case to a GPSC hearing. It was a bold move that paid off: The full commission dismissed the breach of contract case. That teacher is today teaching at her new school, close to home, and able to care for her family in a way that works for her.

“I understand that dealing with teacher turnover can be very frustrating for school systems,” says Davies. “But sometimes there are very clear circumstances why a teacher must resign, and the teacher should not be punished. This was one of those cases.”

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