Time to Evaluate Probationary Employees

The month of December is a busy one for school administrators. In

addition to supervising basketball and wrestling contests, printing programs for

the holiday concert, and rounding up members of the PTO to provide cookies

for the teachers’ holiday tea, administrators must be sure they have evaluated

all probationary teachers during the first semester.

All probationary employees must be evaluated during the first

semester of the 2015-2016 school year. You also must schedule a post

conference for each probationary teacher’s evaluation prior to the

beginning of second semester so that there is no confusion about

whether the evaluation truly occurred during first semester. See NEB.

REV. STAT. § 79-828(2).

The evaluation statute applies to probationary teachers and probationary

administrators, such as principals and athletic directors. The failure to

evaluate probationary certificated employees in the manner required by statute

can result in a loss of the school district's ability to nonrenew a poorly-

performing employee.

In the hustle of finalizing probationary evaluations, administrators are

tempted to short-circuit the evaluation process. Remember that probationary

employees must be evaluated based upon an “actual classroom observation.”

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Evaluate all probationary teachers-- not just those who appear to have

deficiencies. Sometimes significant problems with probationary employees

appear for the first time late in the second semester.

If you have employees who perform a combination of teaching and non-

teaching jobs, such as a librarian who teaches one study skills course, you

must evaluate during classroom time. The Commissioner of Education takes

the position that if a probationary employee teaches even one class, his or her

evaluation must be based on that instruction rather than on an overall review

of his or her performance in all duties.

Particularly during the Christmas season, you may be tempted to sugar-

coat or soften criticisms or concerns you may have about a teacher’s

performance. Using kid gloves and veiling true weaknesses with flowery and

imprecise language is EXACTLY why we school attorneys have so much work to

do each spring. Being too nice or unclear does a disservice to both the teacher

and to you and can hurt your school district in the long run.

If you have any questions about the evaluation of probationary

employees or would like us to review proposed evaluations, please don’t

hesitate to contact Karen, Steve or Bobby.