The SAISD school board as of May 13, 2019.
The SAISD school board votes to change the type of contract offered to teachers hired after Sept. 1. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

San Antonio Independent School District traditionally has offered teachers something most other Texas school districts don’t: contracts with no set end date.

At Monday night’s board meeting, trustees voted to stop offering continuing contracts to any employees hired after Sept. 1.

In a Texas Association of School Boards survey, San Antonio ISD was the only district among 267 respondents that still offered continuing contracts. Most other Texas school districts offer term contracts that typically last for one or two years.

“It will allow us to align with the same policies [and] practices that have been solid policies and practices in other school districts throughout the state,” Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Toni Thompson said.

A statement from the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel criticized the move, describing it as “an attack on our profession, our workplace democracy, and on our future colleagues, including our SAISD students who may aspire to one day teach in their own district.”

San Antonio ISD will begin offering term contracts, likely to last one year, to all new teachers, librarians, and registered nurses who complete a prescribed probationary period. The only way a term contract employee can be terminated is through dismissal proceedings during the school year or a nonrenewal at the end of the year.

During the public comment portion of the board meeting, several teachers said eliminating continuing contracts would make it harder for teachers to speak up when conflict arises with supervisors.

“I want all my former students that become teachers to enjoy the same security that I do,” Longfellow Middle School teacher Veronica Goldbach said. “It is that security that allowed me to become the teacher I am today. … Having the security of a continuing contract allowed me to be innovative and creative with my teaching.”

Continuing contracts are the closest thing to “K-12 tenure” a Texas school district has to offer, according to the Texas State Teachers Association. A continuing contract ceases only if an employee resigns, retires, or is dismissed through a district’s termination process.

San Antonio Alliance President Shelley Potter said that with teachers no longer having continuing contracts, she fears administrators can use the threat of firing “as a club to wield power over teachers.”

“As more and more teachers in the district do not have continuing contracts, there will be less and less likelihood that teachers will speak up on behalf of what is right for students,” Potter wrote in an online petition protesting the school board’s agenda item.

Before the board voted, SAISD officials emphasized that all district educators would receive due process and no one would be terminated without justification.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.