January is a time when many boards of education take stock of the management of their school districts. It is organizational meeting season, and often there are new members joining the board’s ranks. We at OSBA also receive many calls this time of year about what steps boards must take if they want to renew or non-renew a superintendent’s contract and when these steps must be taken.
Timing is an important legal component of the renewal/non-renewal process of superintendent contracts. According to Ohio Revised Code 3319.01, superintendent contracts run for a period of up to five years, and they run on a cycle beginning on August 1st and running through July 31st of the year of expiration.
The law creates a specific window for a board to determine whether to renew a superintendent’s contract. The board has between January 1 of the year before the contract expires until March 1 of the year in which the contract expires to take action to renew the contract. For example, if a superintendent’s contract expires on July 31, 2023, the board’s renewal window runs from January 1, 2022, to March 1, 2023. If the board fails to take action to renew or non-renew the contract within this period, the superintendent is deemed reemployed for one year at the same salary with any increments approved by the board.
If the board decides not to renew a superintendent’s contract, the board is required to provide written notice to the superintendent of its decision not to reemploy him or her by March 1 of the year of expiration. The board should pass a resolution and vote on this action in a meeting. Likewise, if the board decides to reemploy the superintendent, it should take up the matter at a regular or special board meeting and take a vote to reemploy.
Also keep in mind that the board is required to adopt procedures for evaluating its superintendent and to evaluate the superintendent according to those procedures. The law requires boards to consider the results of the evaluation in its decision as to whether to renew the superintendent’s contract. However, the evaluation process does not create an expectation of continued employment, and the final decision as to whether to renew the superintendent’s contract always rests ultimately within the board’s judgment.
Terminating a superintendent’s contract prior to its expiration is an entirely separate process, and is governed by the same termination procedures in RC 3319.16 that govern terminating the contracts of other licensed employees. Similar to teachers, superintendent contracts may be terminated only “for good and just cause.”
Superintendents serve a vital leadership function in any school district, and it is the board’s responsibility to make sure the right person is in place to ensure the optimal function of the district. Understanding the renewal and non-renewal process is therefore an important aspect of serving as a board member. As a practical matter, it is prudent to consult with legal counsel any time a board is proposing to non-renew or terminate a superintendent to ensure that all appropriate procedures are followed. You are welcome to contact the legal division at OSBA with any general questions about the process at 855-OSBA-LAW.