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Posted on Feb 4, 2013

School Board and Employees

School Board and Employees

by Henry Contant, SCSBC Executive Director ◊

Taking Our Contractual Commitments Seriously

Annually, around one thousand legal contracts between Christian school boards (employers) and principals, teachers, and support staff (employees) are in place within our SCSBC. What does it really mean for both parties to have entered contractinto a legally binding agreement? What obligations and commitments have both parties made to each other? What happens when one of the parties doesn’t honour the commitment they have made to the other party? As SCSBC proposes the implementation of the new and updated Employment Contract, we do well to re-examine these fundamental questions and understand why it is wise and prudent for both school boards and employees to embrace an updated contract.

Luke 6:40 states, “A child when fully trained will be like his teacher.” Therefore, a Christian school board must take any and all appropriate steps to recruit, employ, compensate, train, evaluate, and retain teachers, support staff and administrators who model Christian attitudes and whose teaching practices are consistent with Biblical principles.

In my visits to Christian schools throughout the SCSBC community, it is an absolute joy and inspiration to see so many dedicated principals, teachers, and support staff pour their lives and energy into making our Christian schools outstanding learning environments for our children. Their modeling of Christian character, integrity, behaviour, and perspective affirms that every dollar spent on Christian school tuition is well worth it. Thousands of parents are grateful to God for Christian school employees who teach, coach, and counsel their children and teenagers on a daily basis.

Yet, sadly, there are a few exceptions. There have been a few times over the years that the contractual relationship between a school board and one of its employees became strained, and commitments were broken. Beyond the legalese of an employment contract, what are the commitments school boards make with their employees? What must school boards pay close attention to in upholding their contractual commitments? What do our Christian school employees have a right to expect from their boards? Conversely, when does a school board have the right to terminate the employment contract of one of its employees? These are important issues that require a clear understanding by both school board and employees, and well-articulated human resource policies and procedures to guide the process.

First, school boards must ensure that they recruit the best possible staff to fulfill their school’s mission of providing high quality Christian education. Second, school boards must ensure that newly hired staff receives effective orientation, a fair compensation and benefits package, provision for on-going professional development, encouragement in their work, and regular evaluation of their performance. School boards who ensure that their admin

Beyond the legalese of an employment contract, what are the commitments school boards make with their employees? What must school boards pay close attention to in upholding their contractual commitments? What do our Christian school employees have a right to expect from their boards? Conversely, when does a school board have the right to terminate the employment contract of one of its employees? These are important issues that require a clear understanding by both school board and employees, and well-articulated human resource policies and procedures to guide the process.

First, a school board must ensure that they recruit the best possible staff to fulfill their school’s mission of providing high quality Christian education. Second, a school board must ensure that newly hired staff receives effective orientation, a fair compensation and benefits package, provision for on-going professional development, encouragement in their work, and regular evaluation of their performance. School boards who ensure that their administrative team provides these things for their staff have long understood that the real strength of their school is its staff. These boards do all that they can to retain a vibrant teaching and support staff. Needless to say, these are the schools that are thriving today.

An employment contract is a legally binding document for both employers and employees. Once a contract is signed, employees have professional responsibilities to abide by the provisions of the contract. School boards (and principals acting on behalf of the board) have a similar responsibility. The Employment Standards Act of BC was proclaimed to ensure that employees’ rights are protected in our province. The school’s employment contract, community standards policy, and employment provisions outlined within the staff handbook add significant legal weight to this responsibility.

However, a school does not simply exist for the purpose of providing employment for teachers any more than a school board exists to extend employment contracts. Christian schools have a unique mission to provide quality Christ-centered education. Therefore, school boards and principals must ensure that the best possible staff are employed to help achieve that important goal.

I trust Christian schools do not retain employees who lack a vibrant Christian faith, are unwilling to grow professionally, display professional incompetence, violate the school’s community standard, cross professional boundaries, or undermine the school’s mission and statement of faith in any way. I also trust school boards do not violate the terms of their own employment contracts. Boards need to make certain that their employees are evaluated properly, provided adequate opportunities for professional growth and improvement, and given adequate notice. Boards need to follow due process and procedural fairness in the event that employment contracts are not renewed.

As members of a Christian community, our employment contracts are covenants that we make with each other, and as such they must carry with them a Biblical understanding of justice, grace and compassion.

Discussion Questions

Christian school employees should be asking themselves:

  • Did my new staff orientation adequately cover all of the school’s employment expectations as outlined in my employee contract, our school’s Community Standard Policy, and staff handbook?
  • Do I understand all the terms and conditions of my probationary contract?
  • Do I understand the professional development expectations the school board and principal have of me? Do I understand the professional development opportunities available to me?
  • Has my principal discussed how s/he intends to conduct my staff evaluation?
  • Do I understand the opportunities and timeline that will be given to me to improve my performance in the event my performance is deemed less than satisfactory?
  • Do I understand the important dates in my contract including when intention forms are due, the date by which my evaluation must be completed, the date when my probationary period expires, and the date when notice of non-renewal of my contract must be given?
  • Do I understand both my rights and responsibilities in regards to the SCSBC Facilitation, Mediation and Arbitration Policy that is referenced in my contract?
  • Do I understand what might constitute the violation of “professional boundaries” in regards to my relationships with colleagues, students and parents?

Christian school boards should be asking themselves:

  • Does our school have adequate policies and procedures in place to ensure that good hiring and staff orientation practises occur?
  • Are our employees given a fair salary and benefits package?
  • Does our school issue an appropriate and timely cover letter and contract for each individual that is hired? Do boards and employees understand the difference between a probationary contract and a (continuing) indefinite contract?
  • Does our school explain, and then require, each employee to sign the school’s Community Standard Policy as a condition of their employment? Is our school consistent in the application of the Community Standard Policy among all employees?
  • Is appropriate provision made for on-going professional development as stipulated within the contract?
  • Is staff encouraged in their tasks frequently?
  • Do administrative and staff evaluations occur regularly? Are appropriate evaluations completed well before the contract renewal date, typically April 1st?
  • In the event of a less than satisfactory staff evaluation, is opportunity and guidance given so that corrective measures can be taken to improve performance?
  • Is appropriate written notice given to each employee in the event of a change to or non-renewal of their employment contract?
  • Do our school board and all employees understand the contractual implications of the SCSBC Facilitation, Mediation and Arbitration Policy?

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