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Non-renewal of Contracts

by Dennis Demuth on 03/18/19

This is the time of the year when schools are in the process of renewing contracts and looking for new and replacement teachers. One of the greatest legal challenges for Christian schools is the wrongful termination of staff.

A teacher should not be surprised if his/her contract is not renewed. If the non-renewal is related to poor job performance, it should be the result of failing to make the improvements that have been pointed out during the year as part of staff evaluations. Failing to make the required improvements would be grounds for non-renewal based on just cause.

You can reduce the risk of wrongful discharge claims by following these easy steps.
1. Train Supervisors. Train supervisors to record all significant employee challenges. This is important, so subsequent discipline, discharge or non-renewal of a contract are documented and can be justified. This requires supervisors to handle performance appraisals objectively in a way, so challenges can be identified, corrective action taken, and improvement plans developed with specific timelines.
2. Sign Performance Evaluations. Require all employees to read and sign a written performance appraisal. Signing only means that the items were presented to them. They may not agree with what was shared. If this is the case, write down their concerns then have them sign the document.
3. Last Minute Decisions. Avoid spur of the moment terminations. Consider progressive discipline, such as giving a person a day off.
4. Review Decisions. Provide for internal review of each termination decision prior to the action being implemented. Consider using a termination checklist so the person knows exactly why they were released. Ask yourself the question, "If someone else reviewed the information that led to this decision, would they draw the same conclusion?
5. Team Approach. Use a two-member team approach when conducting the termination notification. This provides verification of what was said in case there is a question later.
6. Post-Employment Questions. Appoint one person to field all post-employment questions. Train staff to refer all questions to this designated person.

Consider the following eight questions to ask before dismissing staff for just cause.
1. Notification. Was notification of expectations and consequences for non-compliance given?
2. Current Knowledge. Did the staff member know the rule, conduct or procedure expected of them?
3. Reasonable. Was the rule, conduct or procedure reasonable?
4. Inquiry. Did you make the effort to discover whether the staff member violated rules or directives of the school and supervisory staff?
5. Investigation. Prior to disciplinary action, did you conduct a fair and objective investigation?
6. Evidence. Did you have substantial evidence and documentation to prove that the staff member was guilty of the misconduct charge or failure to follow directives?
7. Relative. Was the disciplinary action reasonable relative to the seriousness and nature of the offense?
8. Fair Treatment. Did you treat the person in a way that was consistent with the treatment of others who were disciplined for similar actions and under similar circumstances?

For more information on this topic, see Christian School Resource Kit, 5th Edition (2019).

Building Trust

by Dennis Demuth on 12/10/18

The immeasurable asset needed in the life of every school leader is "TRUST." Clarence Oliver in his book, Leading with Integrity, states, "Building trust is critical for an administrator to experience long-term success." What steps can a leader take to establish trust. Consider the following as presented by Robert J. Krajewski, co-author of The Elementary School Principalship.
  1. Listen. All trust is built on some degree of self-disclosure. Being receptive to self-disclosure is a prerequisite to openness. When students and staff ask for your support. Listen and allow them to tell you about what is on their heart.
  2. Be Accepting. It is critical to accept and respect students and staff for who they are. Be cautious of imposing your own values on them when you are listening. Respect and accept them and their values, even when they do not agree with your own.
  3. Be Positive. There is nothing like being positive even in the middle of a negative situation. When you are positive, you release a force that can be felt by others.
  4. Be Fair. Students and staff must feel that you are fair, honest, and genuine. Be willing to listen to their problems. There may be other supporting issues that may surface as you listen.
  5. Be Understanding. Students and staff need to feel that you understand them. Using a mirroring technique to help them being understood. "This is what I hear you saying.....and how you feel."

Non-licensed Counseling

by Dennis Demuth on 10/29/18

An area of legal risk associated more in Christian schools than in public schools is non-licensed counseling. Most Christian schools are unable to employ a full range of counseling staff. Thus, this task is often assigned to teachers, administrators and sometimes, non-licensed volunteers. In Christian schools that are closely associated with a ministry, counseling activities may be passed along to the pastoral staff. Caution is in order in any case where those providing "counseling" services are not licensed. In these cases, it is better to identify this service as "personal ministry" rather than "counseling." There are times when teachers hear about personal family issues during parent-teacher conferences and find themselves providing advice on non-related school issues. Avoid this and refer them to the appropriate trained professional.] Consider the following actions to reduce the legal risk associated with counseling type activities, especially in Christian schools.

1 Stay Spiritual. Do not say what you are not. If not licensed, do not communicate you are a counselor. Stick to addressing spiritual truths and using spiritual tools (scripture, prayer, God's power, and presence, etc.).

2 Be Upfront. Make sure the counseled understands that you are not licensed to provide medical or psychological counseling or therapy and that you would be happy to refer then counseled to such a professional.

3 Medical Matters. Acknowledge that some surface problems of the counseled may be caused, in part, by physical, hormonal or environmental influences. A physician, therefore, might be the better professional to minister to such needs.

4 Insurance. Ask your insurance agent to look into obtaining professional liability insurance for your personal ministry actions.

5 Avoid Misconduct. Anyone, including clergy, is answerable for intentional or outrageous misconduct - as opposed to negligent failure to diagnose or refer.

6 Provide an Explanation. Explain to your staff the legal concerns of providing "counseling."

7 Limit Topics Addressed. Limit topics – sexual abuse, alcohol, and drug abuse should be covered by the appropriate licensed professional.

8 "Don't Tell." Do not ever say, "Don't tell your parents." When students begin to talk about confidentiality, let them know that there are things that if they tell you, you are obligated to share if they have legal ramifications – items that may be considered as privileged communication shared to pastors, counselors, etc.

9 Multitude of Counselors. Prov. 11:14 tells us to take critical issues to a multiple of counselors.

10 State Requirements. Check your state for exemptions to license counseling.

The Trap of Tradition

by Dennis Demuth on 09/14/18

A certain variety of caterpillar forages for food in a single file, each caterpillar with his head in firm contract with the tail of the one in front of him. They proceed in this fashion until the leader has located a feeding area. 

One day a naturalist placed a line of processionary caterpillars, as they are called, on the rim of a flowerpot, and succeeded in getting the head of the leader connected with the tail of the one at the end of the line. 

The caterpillars then formed an unbroken circle around the rim of the flowerpot. They proceeded to march without stopping for many hours. Each of the creatures apparently was depending upon the one in front of him to lead the way to food. They kept on until they dropped from fatigue.

Now that school has been in session for a few weeks, do you find yourself caught in the habit of approaching your lessons in the same fashion? Maybe it is time for a change. Adding variety to your daily instructional activities will foster a greater level of motivation and enthusiasm.

One way to vary instruction is to change your reinforcers. Try something different. See our website under professional development for suggestions. 

A third way is to use student ideas. When this happens student interest will increase and the content will be more relevant. The Internet is full of suggestions on how to add variety to your instruction.


     Finally, allow the Holy Spirit to be your team teacher and give you creative ideas. When released in the classroom the Holy Spirit will quicken understanding (1 Cor. 2:9-16; Isa. 11:2). Secondly, according to the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will offer new patterns of thinking and acting. (2 Cor. 5:17). If you want creativity to flow in your classroom, let your team teacher offer new ways of doing things. And thirdly, the Holy Spirit as your team teacher will facilitate teaching and make learning happen (1 John 2:20-27). To facilitate means to make things easier. Not only do you want things to go easier in the classroom, so do your students. 

NEW PUBLICATIONS

by Dennis Demuth on 07/28/18

Great News!

I have just completed a six-volume series of Christian School Insights. These can be purchased on Amazon.com in the format for a Kindle Reader, iPhone, or table. There is also a single paperback that combines all six volumes. 

A two-volume series of Christian School Insights is available for Kindle, iPhone or Tablet. This two-volume series has also been combined and published as a single Volume titled Christian School Insights: Inspirational and Practical Topics for Christian Educators. 

Spirit-Directed Education: A New Approach is also now available on Amazon.com. This book presents a new approach to education that goes beyond educating the mind and body and focuses on the heart of spirit of a student.

Christian School PowerPoint presentations can be used for professional development and in-service training. See ProDevelopment Menu.

​Please feel free to copy and distribute copies to parents and staff or post on your websites. All we ask is that you contact us and leave a message as to how you used this resource. 
Order paperback or six-volumes for a Kindle Reader, iPhone, or Tablet all from Amazon.com
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