Chances are, you’ve known for a while which teachers won’t be renewed and why. It’s important to tell them as soon as possible so they can plan ahead, but how do you manage the possible aftermath of angry and hurt feelings until the school year ends? Here are some things to keep in mind and strategies for a positive school culture:
Know the legal issues around managing non-renewed teachers.
Make sure you know exactly what you can and cannot say during these non-renewal discussions. Before you have any conversations, talk with your superintendent or a school law expert about what is allowed and what is not. There is no substitute for being well-prepared.
Be clear and concrete about why a teacher’s contract isn’t being renewed.
If a teacher hasn’t been performing well, this shouldn’t be a surprise to them. You should have paperwork backup including poor observations and documented conversations. That said, the actual consequence of non-renewal can bring up lots of emotions. The teacher may feel ashamed, angry, or even sad about inevitably leaving your school family. Tell it like it is:
I need to give you a formal notice that your contract is not being renewed because of poor performance.
If a teacher is facing non-renewal due to a lack of enrollment or shifting of school structure say:
Next year we won’t have enough Kindergartners to warrant five teachers and I have no place else to move you, so your contract is not being renewed.
Come to the meeting prepared with ways to support.
If a teacher hasn’t been performing well, be sure to share one or two improvements they can make in the future. Then, share a strength the teacher currently has. It never feels good for the entire discussion to focus on the negative, and let’s face it … if the teacher was all bad, you wouldn’t let them finish the year.
Although we’ve loved how kind you are to all students, your lack of classroom management strategies can make things unsafe at times.
If a teacher is not being renewed for enrollment reasons, make sure you share how you can support future growth and opportunities. If this is a skilled teacher and you want to be able to offer a position when one becomes available, you want that teacher feeling positive and encouraged about this moment.
Although enrollment is forcing us to part ways right now, your enthusiasm for learning and ability to get along with everyone makes this a tough loss for all of us. I hope you’ll use me for a reference and stay in touch.
Let non-renewed teachers share their news on their own time.
Just because you are letting them know early, this doesn’t mean it’s your news to share with everyone. Near the end of the year, if they haven’t shared their news, it’s appropriate to announce changes during a staff meeting. Address them factually and with kindness.
Keep school culture and professional expectations high.
It is never okay for a teacher to use sarcasm about a non-renewal or exhibit hostility to anyone at school. If you see this behavior, address it immediately. Call the teacher into your office and explain that though their non-renewal may feel tough, professionalism is a requirement. You might also want to reinforce that teachers under the employ of your district should refrain from bad-mouthing the school out in the community. You won’t be able to control everyone, obviously, but it’s better not to leave it unsaid.
Remember non-renewed teachers regularly throughout the rest of the year.
It’s hard not to be renewed even when it’s a consequence of your own behavior. Remembering to support these teachers in different ways can make a big difference. If you see a job opening that might be perfect for someone, share it with them. When a non-renewed teacher puts in extra effort, give them immediate positive feedback.
Managing non-renewed teachers isn’t always easy, but supporting the staff you have right now is critical to continuing a positive school culture. Ultimately, we want to look at retaining our best teachers, but we have to keep in mind that the teachers we have right now need us now. Let’s be there for everyone.
How do you manage non-renewals? Come and share in our Principal Life group on Facebook.