At a workshop on teachers’ legal rights and responsibilities, CEA attorney Melanie Kolek—presenting before teachers in a large school district—asked, “By show of hands, how many of you have looked at your personnel files?”
The room was packed. Only three hands went up.
Teachers often feel that because their district or the State Department of Education maintains copies of school-related and employment documents, they don’t need to keep or check their own files. However, documents can get misplaced, and districts may resist requests for documents when there are employment disputes.
At your next 10-minute meeting, advise teachers in your building to do a document checkup every year or two. Documents every teacher should keep include the following:
- Copies of your evaluations, along with personal development/improvement plans, your responses, and any follow-up to those plans.
- Your contract, which contains important information about your placement on the salary schedule as well as other compensation/benefits information.
- Pay stubs for each pay period. “Don’t just keep payroll documents; look them over,” says Kolek. Make sure that you are being compensated at the level reflected in your contract. Catching mistakes in the same fiscal year when an underpayment occurs is critical to resolving the error without having to go to formal litigation.
- Records of your teacher certification and other credentials. “Stay on top of the expiration date on your current certificate, and be sure to renew on time,” Kolek says.
- Retirement status. Miscalculations in required contributions and discrepancies in employment status (full-time/part-time) or years of experience are not uncommon, especially if you have worked in multiple school districts. Verify that the correct contributions have been made and that you are credited with the proper years of service. Catching these mistakes when you’re about to retire could be too late, since there are limits on how far back you can litigate a mistake in contributions made.