School Administrators Should Track the
Upcoming Deadlines Related to Staff Renewal
All staff members must be provided with written notice of renewal or nonrenewal on or before May 15th of each year.1 This notice requirement applies to any employee who has been continuously employed by the district since the preceding September 30.
It’s important to remember that boards of education can only renew the employment contract of certificated and non-certificated staff members upon the recommendation of the chief school administrator (CSA).2 If the CSA recommends the renewal of an employee’s contract, then that recommendation must be approved by a recorded roll call majority vote of the full membership of the board.3 While the board cannot withhold its approval of the recommendation to renew for arbitrary and capricious reasons, it is still possible that such a vote will fail to reach a majority and thus, the staff member will not be renewed.4
Whenever a CSA determines not to renew the contract of a nontenured employee, the contract is deemed nonrenewed.5 If the CSA has made the decision to nonrenew the employee’s contract, then s/he must notify his/her board of education of the recommendation, and the reasons for that recommendation, prior to notifying the affected employee.6 Thereafter, no formal board action must be taken. No specific regulations address the timing of the CSA’s notice to the board and/or the manner in which the notice is given. The CSA’s notice to the teaching staff member does not need to include any reason for the decision. It merely must state that the CSA is not recommending the individual for re-employment and that his/her employment will cease at the end of the contract term.
However, a nontenured teaching staff member whose contract is not renewed has the right to request a written statement of reasons for the nonrenewal.7 Such a request must be made within 15 days after the staff member receives the notice of nonrenewal.8 Within 30 days of the request, the CSA must provide the teaching staff member with a written statement of reasons.9 There are no specific rules regarding the content of the CSA’s letter providing the statement of reasons for nonrenewal. It need not be an exhaustive list, but it should give the staff member notice of his/her deficiencies. However, CSAs should be careful not to provide reasons that could be misconstrued as articulating an illegal or discriminatory motive.
The nonrenewed teaching staff member also has the right to request an informal appearance before the board, which is also referred to as a Donaldson hearing.10 Only a teaching staff member who has requested and received a statement of reasons may request a hearing. The request must be made within ten calendar days of the teaching staff member’s receipt of the statement of reasons.11 The hearing must be scheduled within 30 calendar days from the date of the teaching staff member’s receipt of the statement of reasons. This appearance shall not be an adversarial proceeding, though the staff member may be represented at that hearing by counsel or a representative of the staff member’s choosing.12 The purpose of the appearance is to permit the staff member to convince the board to offer re-employment.13 It is up to each board of education to determine a reasonable length of time for the proceeding.14 While the board may vote to overturn the CSA’s recommendation after the appearance, the board is under no obligation to take any action.15
Because of the significant role CSAs have relative to personnel actions, it is important not to overlook the May 15th deadline. Failure to provide notice of nonrenewal to a nontenured teaching staff member by this deadline is deemed to be an offer of continued employment by the board for the next succeeding school year.16 A staff member who is deemed to have been renewed in this manner shall be employed “upon the same terms and conditions but with such increases in salary as may be required by law or policies of the board of education.”17 However, the teaching staff member must accept re-employment on or before June 1 for his/her employment to continue.18 If the staff member fails to give written notice of acceptance of continued employment by June 1, then his/her employment will cease at the end of the contract term. Therefore, timely notices of nonrenewal are critical because inadvertent failure to meet the deadlines can result in underperforming staff members obtaining tenure.
As always, when a question or concern arises regarding this procedure or the employee’s rights, it is recommended that the CSA contact the board attorney for advice and counsel.
NJASA will provide a more thorough discussion of these deadlines and renewal/nonrenewal procedure on April 19, 2023, as part of the Power of Legal Information series. The session will focus on personnel issues, including renewal and nonrenewal of teaching staff members, as well as issues related to tenure and seniority. For more information on registering for this session, please visit the NJASA website at: https://www.njasa.net/domain/177.
1 N.J.S.A. 18A:27-10.
2 N.J.S.A. 18A:27-4.1(b).
3 N.J.S.A. 18A:27-4.1(a).
6 N.J.S.A. 18A:27-4.1(b).
7 Id.; N.J.S.A. 18A:27-3.2.
8 N.J.S.A. 18A:27-3.2.
10 See, Donaldson v. Board pf Educ. of the City of Wildwood, 65 N.J. 236 (1974).
11 N.J.A.C. 6A:10-9.1(f).
12 N.J.A.C. 6A:10-9.19(f).
13 N.J.S.A. 18A:27-4.1(b); N.J.A.C. 6A:10-9.1(c).
14 N.J.A.C. 6A:10-9.1(d).
15 See, Velasquez v. Board of Education of the Borough of Brielle, S.B. #30-96 (April 4, 1996).
18 N.J.S.A. 18A:27-12.