Can I quit teaching mid-year in SD?
I am 24 years old and am halfway through my first year teaching in South Dakota. I've realized, for many reasons (stress, working 24/7, low pay, little respect, etc.) that I need to quit and pursue another career. My contract states very little regarding resignations, and I've read that schools can take legal action when a contract is breached. What, exactly, could happen if I quit? Could I be sued? I will not be teaching anytime in my future, and I'd provide at least one month notice. This is what my contract states, in full, about resigning:
"Resignations shall be in writing and should be submitted to the superintendent for action by the Board of Education. All resignations will be granted only by mutual consent and only when a replacement is available."
It also says this about liquidated damages:
"Failure to complete the terms of a teaching contract constitutes a financial damage to the school district. Because of the unique nature of each case it is impractical or extremely difficult to fix the actual damage. Therefore, the school district will assess the following amounts as liquidated damages: After execution of the contract up to and including June 1st, the sum of $500.00; From June 2nd up to and including July 1st, the sum of $750.00; From July 2nd and thereafter, the sum of $1,000.00"
Please help, as I feel I need to quit as soon as possible in order to keep my sanity and start working on finding a career that will suit me!
Are you a member of a teacher association or union, such as the National Education Association or American Federation of Teachers? If so, you need to get in contact as soon as possible with the representative of your local organization. This individual can help you get in touch with legal advisors who will be able to give you more detailed information and advice regarding your situation and the proper procedures, and potential ramifications, of resigning your position at the end of the first semester.
The key phrase in your contract is "only when a replacement is available." If you teach a subject and grade level that can be relatively easily filled by giving someone currently substituting in your district a long-term assignment, it may be possible to arrange for a change at semester without too many complications. If you are in an area that requires specialized training, it will be more difficult to find someone else able to cover your responsibilities for the remainder of this school year.
Until alternative arrangements can be made, are you reaching out to the other teachers in your building/district for as much help and support as possible? They may be able to help you with planning classroom activities, finding alternative methods, handling discipline challenges, and so on to make your remaining time in the classroom less stressful for you and more educationally beneficial for your students. Given that you've now decided teaching is not the correct choice for you, once upon a time you apparently did think you wanted to help young people learn and grow. You need to do what is right for you, but please also try to recognize the importance of your remaining time in contact with students - give them as much as you can to contribute to their learning process while you're still with them.
You can try to consult an Attorney who specializes in contracts, he or she will know the case law on such.
If your resignation is not acceptable for health reasons, as you say stress is bad, ask the attorney about filing a suit for a Court Order to release you from the contract without suffering danages, however, this may cost way more than what the damages are the board asks for.
Resigning for HEALTH reasons is NOT the same as wanting to move, take another position in another company, etc.