My sister recently applied for a teaching job at a public school (in Texas), and went through the interview process. She was verbally informed by the principal that she had been selected for the position.

The principal told my sister that the principal had to wait until the end of the the position's open period to offer my sister the contract as this is district policy. The principal discussed training for the new position with my sister in front of several faculty members, and urged my sister to not sign any contracts elsewhere. On several occasions the principal made it verbally clear that the job was my sister's. My sister did not renew her current teaching contract based on these promises.

Several days passed, and then the principal asked for my sister's current teaching evaluations, and decided she no longer wanted to hire my sister. (The evaluations are not A+ material, but there is nothing awful in them either.)

The principal now says that she doesn't really decide things and can only recommend hiring someone, and that she will not recommend my sister. She places blame on my sister for not providing the unasked for evaluations earlier.

Is there any legal recourse to be taken? Any disciplinary action that can be taken against the principal for misleading/deceiving a prospective hire to such a degree?

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    "The principal told her that she had to wait 10 days due to technicalities before giving her a contract to sign. She discussed training for the new position with my sister in front of several faculty members, and urged her to not sign any contracts elsewhere. On several occasions she made it verbally clear that the job was hers".....Can you distinguish "she" your sister and "she" the principal? – DJohnM Jun 2 '18 at 3:13
  • Yes, sorry, that's a good point. I've edited to make this clear. thanks. – aggieTaxes Jun 3 '18 at 20:16

There are several theories upon which people in this kind of situation can prevail in the private sector, but when government jobs are involved, there is probably no legal action that can be taken.

This is mostly because, in government, there are publicly available laws making clear who has authority to make decisions and what steps must be taken for a decision to count as final. There are also legal doctrines that provide governments with immunity from many kinds of lawsuits that can be brought against private individuals and businesses.

Her best shot is probably seeing if there is any way that she can get her contract renewed or be hired on a temp basis with the school where she was previously a teacher, or short of that, getting into the substitute teacher pool (and possibly also contacting the local teacher's union and/or using social media to spread the word about this tactic from this principal).

It could be that the principal was acting in good faith, but due to lack of experience or a change in personnel making the real decision, simply misjudged the likelihood that her recommendation would be accepted. Or, it could be that someone better connected, or who simply seemed like a better candidate for the job, came along at the last minute and got hired instead. In all likelihood, you will never know for sure why that happened.

Going forward, the lesson learned it to renew your contract and assume that you will not get a job elsewhere, until there is confirmation in writing from someone with authority to offer you the job. It is much easier to quit once you renew your contract, than to be rehired once you fail to renew it.

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Texas Education Code 11.202 superficially seems to give principals hiring authority:

(b) Each principal shall: (1) except as provided by Subsection (d), approve all teacher and staff appointments for that principal's campus from a pool of applicants selected by the district or of applicants who meet the hiring requirements established by the district, based on criteria developed by the principal after informal consultation with the faculty

Subsection (d) says that

The superintendent or the person designated by the superintendent has final placement authority for a teacher transferred because of enrollment shifts or program changes in the district.

For the sake of comparison, that section also says that the principals shall

(6) recommend to the superintendent the termination or suspension of an employee assigned to the campus or the nonrenewal of the term contract of an employee assigned to the campus

The point here is that the law does not state that the principal makes hiring recommendations to the superintendent.

The superintendent's duties are spelled out in TEC 11.201

(d) The duties of the superintendent include:


(2) except as provided by Section 11.202, assuming administrative authority and responsibility for the assignment, supervision, and evaluation of all personnel of the district other than the superintendent;

that is, the duties of the superintendent do not include the duties of the principal, but does include "initiating the termination or suspension of an employee or the nonrenewal of an employee's term contract" (which the principal may recommend). The enumerated duties of the superintendent do not include approving / disapproving the hiring of teachers.

At the top of the hierarchy is the board of trustees of the district. The board has broad powers per TEC 11.151, including that

(b) The trustees as a body corporate have the exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the district.  All powers and duties not specifically delegated by statute to the agency or to the State Board of Education are reserved for the trustees, and the agency may not substitute its judgment for the lawful exercise of those powers and duties by the trustees.

The list of duties in TEC 11.1151 includes certain things that the board shall do, which includes one employment related thing:

(14) make decisions relating to terminating the employment of district employees employed under a contract to which Chapter 21 applies, including terminating or not renewing an employment contract to which that chapter applies

and in addition, they may

(4) enter into contracts as authorized under this code or other law and delegate contractual authority to the superintendent as appropriate.

Being hired is entering into a contract.

Unfortunately, TEC 11.1513 states more clearly what a school district's employment policy must be:

(a) The employment policy must provide that:...

(2) the superintendent has sole authority to make recommendations to the board regarding the selection of all personnel other than the superintendent, except that the board may delegate final authority for those decisions to the superintendent;  and

(3) each principal must approve each teacher or staff appointment to the principal's campus as provided by Section 11.202.

(b) The board of trustees may accept or reject the superintendent's recommendation regarding the selection of district personnel and shall include the board's acceptance or rejection in the minutes of the board's meeting

So in fact a chain of approvals from principal to board is required, in order to be hired.

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