Teacher contracts in Christian schools

Discussion in 'General Education' started by jlj, Jul 30, 2008.

  1. jlj

    jlj Devotee

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    Need advice ASAP! What's included in your contract? How is it stated? What is required of you by the church? We've already signed contracts for the new year, however now the pastor (he's been here a year) has decided he wants the contracts revised & everyone sign a new one. Our contracts include general statements about moral character, being a Christian, believing Jesus to be Lord and Savior...... The contracts have read the same way for years. Now the pastor wants it specified in the contracts that we must attend church regularly (for now it doesn't have to be this church, but he would prefer it), also that you do not smoke, drink, do drugs, etc. Well, for some (not me) the smoking part will be a problem, however I have seen deacons of the church smoking on church grounds :whistle: . We have maybe two that smoke on staff, they never smoke on grounds, they use their break & go to the store next door or something like that. As for drinking, I do know of a few that enjoy a glass of wine on occasion. We have a very dedicated, Christian staff from various denominations (all but two have been here for at least 5 years, most 10 plus, we have a very low turn over). :) Some attend their church regularly & are very involved, some attend 'most' of the time. There are 3 on staff that have disabled husbands and do not attend church regularly but watch services on TV as their 'church' time, have their devotional time, etc. This pastor has a problem with that, he says that if not attending a church regularly then your spiritual life can't be right. He doesn't even know these people! I must say, we are all having a problem with this and do not want to sign another contract.
    I'm wondering just how specific he can get and still be legal? And would we all really have to sign a new contract since we've already signed one? Your input, advice... would be greatly appreaciated!
     
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  3. Mrs.Sheila

    Mrs.Sheila Cohort

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    As far as being legal, being in a church you are covered more then most, so I am not sure.

    Our preschool is in a church, and though we have yet to have a contract, it has been considered. I personally see it as a good thing, because though my coworkers are not me, they do reflect the school in their own personal lives. A few years ago some of our teachers were out drinking and seen by parents, and well... how does that make our school look?
     
  4. wig

    wig Devotee

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    Because it is a private school, he can legally be as specific as he wants. Most faith-based schools have a morals clause based on their beliefs. It sounds like yours is sponsored by a Baptist church. Most faith-based schools expect their staff to "practice what they teach". I think that is appropriate. In the case of the smokers, hopefully they will give them a time frame within to quit. Even if they are not smoking on the premises, they still smell like a smoker. As far as the teachers with disabled husbands, what do they do while they are teaching? Do they have a caregiver at the home? If that is the case, then hopefully the pastor will practice grace.
     
  5. TeacherSandra

    TeacherSandra Enthusiast

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    Our contracts are very different this year; there are no great details in length like there have been in the past. What's up with that? In the past, it was stated that all employees must be a part of a Church. This isn't even on the contract anymore.
    I do wish that our Christian school would hire Christians - it has been a sore spot on many occasions; and then they wonder why someones does whatever! etc..! We are a Christian school.
    You know...I don't know the legalities of your contract, etc..I can see why he wants employees to attend a Church; is he going to lose alot of people now?
     
  6. Mable

    Mable Enthusiast

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    When I worked at Catholic schools, I don't recall anything specific like smoking, drinking, etc. being mentioned.
     
  7. wig

    wig Devotee

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    Mable: It is not against Catholic teachings to smoke, drink, etc. unless it is to excess. it is in some denominations. i suspect that this may be one.

    Sandra: I cannot understand why a Christian School does not hire Christians. It sounds like their mission, purpose, and priorities are in the wrong place.
     
  8. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    I wouldn't sign that contract personally, but I am not a Christian. I don't think anyone should be able to tell me what I do outside of school time even though I don't smoke and rarely drink.

    It could turn into a witch hunt- people naming names about who did or did not attend church that week- who was drinking champagne on New Years, who wear a nicotine patch, etc. I think this would be enough reason for me to quit. Even if I did NOT drink or smoke, I would be worried about the other people involved. Some people are holier than thou, and busy bodies and they would like nothing more than to call someone out. Yikes.

    I also agree that in a religious school, the faculty should be that religion. Otherwise when things like this come up it's just awkward. I guess if this is a reflection of the beliefs than that is what is expected. My sister's husband was a presbyterian youth minister and those ministers do drink beer and wine. I guess it depends on the denomination.
     
  9. 3Sons

    3Sons Connoisseur

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    He can be quite specific, including going down to smoking and church attendance (note that "regularly" could be interpreted a lot of different ways). If he's going to do that, though, he should seriously think about how he's going to enforce it. He's really going to kick teachers out if they smoke a cigarette or miss church a few times? If he's not going to fire people, how exactly does he plan to enforce it, if at all?

    If you've already signed a contract, a modification would need to be agreed to by both parties or it remains in force. He can't unilaterally modify it without being in breach.

    It does scare me a bit that the contract includes statements of belief. It treats belief as something subject to mere whims of the parties, without regard to their actual convictions or anything that might change their convictions. A better method would be to include provisions on public statements -- you shall publicly state (or at least not deny) the divinity of Christ, etc.

    As for the teachers with disabled husbands, surely they must go out at times, and church service is an hour or so? It doesn't seem like a particular strong argument to claim infeasibility or impracticality (however, it's "attend", right? Does this mean a particular length of time? If you skip out after 20 minutes of the service, did you "attend" it?)

    In short, this sounds like a bad contract even from his perspective.
     
  10. time2teach

    time2teach Companion

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    Perhaps you and your co-workers should contact the Christian law association for help. A church we know of had a major dispute and they contacted them to come and mediate. It was a contract issue I believe as well.

    www.christianlaw.org
     
  11. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    That's probably because you can smoke and drink if you are Catholic.
     
  12. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    When I interviewed at that Christian school a few weeks ago, the minister said I would be expected to attend church each week. While in my heart this sounds like it should be totally fine-I like church, I don't mind going-we are super busy. We go down to see my dh's parents just about every weekend, and they do not attend church, so we do not attend. I would not want to stress about that on our visits to them. I would also not like someone telling me I could not drink alcohol. I certainly don't abuse it, and my dh has never even had a drink, but I don't like anyone giving me restrictions on my personal life. I put too much into my work to not be able to go home and have a wine cooler with my steak, because my work told me I couldn't!!
     
  13. wig

    wig Devotee

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    So, a Christian School is not the kind of school you should be teaching at, and there is nothing wrong with that. We are not all cut out to teach at the same type of schools. I could never teach at an inner city public school. I have a friend who excels at it.

    This just shows that you need to know if the requirements at ANY school you interview at are ones you can live with. If you can't, then it isn't the school for you.
     
  14. Sheree

    Sheree Companion

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    My old school was a Christian school and the contract was really specific like yours. Absolutely no drinking or smoking. It also mentioned going to church on a regular basis. I few times out of the year I enjoy alcoholic drink. I never felt bad about because I wasn't during school hours and I was in control of myself. I know that since it is private, the law is own their side when it comes to those items that you outlined.
     
  15. bonneb

    bonneb Fanatic

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    jlj - All of the Christian schools I have had experience with have had very similar contracts. It is not unusual, but I can see it is a huge change and rather shocking at this late date.

    However, it does seem a bit unsettling that the contract could be changed at this time, once you had already signed a contract for this year. Seems it would have been better to tell everyone "This is the contract we will be moving toward next year."

    I am all for face-to-face communication. I think as a group you should set up a meeting with your P. and calmly tell him you guys are uncomfortable with the new wording. If he sees that the whole group is unsettled, he might be willing to discuss things. Or, he might not.

    If he is not willing to have discussion, then you are all well within the bounds of Christianity to go to the elders or whoever oversees the school/principal and again, calmly discuss things. If he is top dog, then you will each have to decide if you want to sign your name to the document, and if not, he might end up needing to get new teachers at the last minute.

    Personally, I do see the point in the wording. However, I don't think Christ would be asking people to sign a "don't" list. The whole point of Christ's teachings was that we are not bound by laws, but we are eager to change within and become more like him willingly. These kinds of rules tend to bring about resentment and rebellion, or forced compliance, rather than a true change of heart.

    I'm hoping this is a reasonable man with a Christ like heart who will work with people for their good and the good of the school, and be patient and loving. I am really interested to hear how things go.
     
  16. jlj

    jlj Devotee

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    Thanks for the opinions everyone! I absolutely agree that teachers & staff should be Christians if in a faith-based school. I also agree that those employees are representing the school & the church wherever they are so they do need to be "practicing what they teach" as stated in another post. I do however have a problem with being as specific as he wants to be. We've also been asking how he intends to enforce it & what the consequences would be. Didn't have an answer for that other than to say he would "talk" to them if neccessary. As for those with disabled husbands - one is on a heart transplant list, one's heart is giving out (nothing more can be done) to the point that he is weak, tired, short of breath & sometimes having chest pain just trying to dress, the third one's heart is just as bad with the same issues as well as several strokes that have left him with many other problems to cope with as well. When they do go out it's usually for doctor appointments and on rare occasion may go get a bite to eat somewhere where they don't have to wait in a line or maybe go for a ride just to get out of the house a little. As for the wives, they feel because it's so hard for their husbands to get ready & it takes so much out of them they leave it up to their husband. If he feels like trying to go okay, if not, okay & they feel their place is with their husband so they can have their worship time together. Since each does work during the day, they try to spend as much time with them as possible & don't feel it's right to be told they have to attend church when that would, more times than not, mean leaving their husband at home.

    As for possible breach of contract - so do you think the one everyone has already signed would have to be honored for this year?
     
  17. wig

    wig Devotee

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    I would think that the one you signed for this year should be honored. I can see where the proposed one could be in effect next year, however. It may be the compromise both sides should come to.

    Re: the teachers with disabled husbands, hopefully some type of compromise could be made. I honestly see the importance of regular church attendance - even in cases like these, the rationale being if the wives can leave the husbands to go to work they can worship in church. But hopefully the pastor could take every unique case into consideration with all of his rules.
     
  18. bonneb

    bonneb Fanatic

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    I think she means the wives all work. The husbands don't work right?

    Maybe this principal should help these women out and supply some respite for them once a month or so and they could go to church and have someone with their husbands at home.

    I have to say, these ladies are doing the right thing in mho. Who is the priority - the husband or the boss?
     
  19. 3Sons

    3Sons Connoisseur

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    Yes, presuming it's a valid contract in the first place. If he starts claiming the first contract wasn't valid, he's playing legal hardball. Not very seemly for a pastor. He's also taking a bit of a risk here: someone could leave, find another job, and sue him for anticipatory breach, at least in theory.

    So. . . is him talking to you a serious punishment? It sounds like it would be to me ;). If that's how he plans to encourage compliance, maybe he ought to write it into the contract. "Anyone not attending church will be spoken to by the pastor".

    Sorry, that's a bit snarky. I'd be the first to tell you if he couldn't write church attendance into a (next year's) contract, but he very likely can. Contacting a specialized lawyer in the area is a good idea, as they would likely know more about the state law governing contracts and specifically teacher contracts (what you've heard so far here has been general principles, but specific situations/laws can override those).
     
  20. MsWK

    MsWK Habitué

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    Well, seeing as how you've already signed one contract, it seems like this new one will have to wait until next year.
     

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