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Contract Ethics

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As you progress through the job search process, there may be offers that come from school districts at job fairs, over the phone, or at the end of an interview. School districts feel that once a candidate has agreed and accepted a contractual offer that the candidate will honor their commitment. I know what you are saying, "this was a really short post and why would a personnel director make such a simple comment."

Well, the reason for this post is simple, I will agree. Candidates don't always honor their commitment. I would like to say that districts always do but that would be an oversimplification of the problem. I have been at job fairs and seen individuals walking around bragging that they had 3 or 4 intent letters or contracts. Now I know people like to hedge their bets, but this is pushing the limit of ethical behavior.

School districts that offer letters of intent expect the candidate who accepts the letter to discontinue their search. Obviously, there are two sides to this story. If an individual is recruited or interviewed and is offerred a contract/letter, they should know what that means. Most contract law will talk about a duty to perform. Understand that when a school district makes a decision they are not planning to continue the search. Individuals need to start the process of transitioning in to the mind set and physical reality of the work that lies ahead.

In our area because we have a dozen school districts within 15 miles of each other, we know when someone is playing a game or trying to play one district against another. This leaves a very bad taste and may hinder a persons ability to advance as time goes on. I know we attempt to track those offerred contracts/letters and we know who might resign or not show up for work.

Being ethical in this process is the most professional thing you can do. If you are offerred a letter of intent, declining the letter won't create a bad situation for you. If you come to a district to interview and they offer you a contract, realize that the expectation is you will take it. Once again, "never apply/interview for a position unless you are willing to take that position." Nothing makes a district more frustrated than to do their work, get to the point of selection, and then the candidate says pass. The offer may not come your way again. Hence, the reason for the research and understanding of the district, school, student population, and community prior to your on site interview.

We used to use a hand shake because that was a persons "bond". Those days have changed but as a candidate understand that the district has expectations. Those are that you as an individual are honorable and ethical. Please do not let us down!

Doug Peden
Executive Director of Human Resources
Falcon School District
Colorado Springs, Colorado

4 Comments

I just finished reading the article on ethical behavior by prospective teachers, as reported by the district. The flip side of the coin also needs mentioning keeping in mind this is only one such experience. When I moved to Colorado and had decided what area to live near I applied to the district early in the hopes that I would be given the opportunity for possibly multiple interviews. I am an experienced teacher, 11 years at the time. The fact that I was coming from out of state, I believe, posed additional challenges for me and when I finally did get an opportunity to interview it was for the last possible open position in the district. It seemed that my letters of intent for various teaching positions as well as administrative positions were continually overlooked by the HR staff. When I did accept the teaching position I was told it was considered a temporary one and I would have to start all over again next year. I was able to transfer at the end of the year. That year I made it a point to make myself known to the district, in particular, my numerous experiences in the classroom and as an administrator. The HR superintendent and I had numerous conversations regarding administrative positions coming up the next year. I was ecstatic, of course, to be able to share with him my experience and the services I could provide for the district, he seemed positive and encouraging. The superintendent stated to me (his "word") that I would be given the opportunity to interview for these upcoming positions--he retired that year! The new superintendent, of course, didn't know anything about these conversations, however she too gave me the same song and dance and I was never given the opportunity of an interview. I had, at that time, 5 years administrative experience and 6 years teaching experience. Additionally, I joined a professional development class that helped prepare new administrators. The class was a career path the district provided and I hoped to learn more about the workings of a new state for myself. In the end I felt very much overlooked and dismissed by the district powers that were in control. I have since gone back to the classroom and am very happy there as well. Although, the whole experience has been very disappointing and I felt the HR practices unprofessional and misleading on their part. I feel that my experience is not unique and similar if not worse scenarios happen to teachers regularly. Unfortunately , I also feel that what I have learned this is that the "system" is very political. This may be a very naive statement on my part but in the educational profession this and many other "seemingly political" practices are definitely not in the best interest of students, school communities, and parents.

In the world of business, individuals have the opportunity to shop around for the best offer and type of work. When will school divisions apply this model to the world of education? Teachers need to be seen as valuable and not just meat to grab up at the best possible moment. In my opinion, it is not unethical to seek out the best for oneself. Until the name is on the dotted line, both the school division and the interviewee should have no expectation that there is a contractual obligation to work for that division. This is not unethical.

Has anyone asked why prospective employees continue to seekadditonal offers after a letter of intent has been given them? Perhaps, and I certainly have no way of determining whether this is true or not, school districts are not the only ones who have been disappointed by the use of letters of intent. There are usually abuses on both sides of any problm like this. It could be that both sides need to be educated on what a letter of intent actually means. For prospective employees, it should mean they should discontinue their job search;and for districts it means that they should honor their intent so the bearer of said letter holds no unfiulfilled expectations as the district collects a pool of prospective candidates and then chooses among them at the last minute-a practice that occurs in my district on a regular basis.

LKelley

Dear Doug Peden,
.
You said: If you come to a district to interview and they offer you a contract, realize that the expectation is you will take it. .... "never apply/interview for a position unless you are willing to take that position." .... The offer may not come your way again. Hence, the reason for the research and understanding of the district, school, student population, and community prior to your on site interview.

Thanks for the welcome to the chattel slave class.

Here is one of the problems with your position. How much time should I put into researching a school district prior to a job offer? How available is that information that I seek?
Why end the interview with do you have any questions about our district?

It is time consuming filling out the required paperwork to apply. To think that the candidate will perform exhaustive research on the districts and their practices prior to the submission of the paperwork for each position seems similar to expecting an individual to do the background research to accept a marriage proposal prior to the first date.

No I think that once a candidate is selected by the district it is perfectly appropriate for the potential new teacher to continue research on the prospective employer.

I find your position incredibly one sided. If the real objective was to create the best situation for all parties involved especially the students, it would be refreshing for you to have a position other than what is best and easiest for the school district administration.
.
We live in an age in which there is lots of publicity on the difficulty in getting rid of tenured teachers but little coverage of why many great teachers leave the profession completely. Until the attitudes of many central office administrators change the rates at which good and much better than good teachers leave the profession seem unlikely to decrease.

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The opinions expressed in Career Corner are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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