PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) — Pflugerville ISD is looking at consequences for school district teachers who break contracts during the middle of the year, and it’s hitting a nerve with teachers who are in the process of resigning.

During a regularly-scheduled board meeting on Jan. 20, a Pflugerville Legislative Advocacy Committee came up with a list of mitigation strategies to makeup for the teacher shortages and substitute deficits.

A regional grassroots organization reportedly collaborated on the main priorities. Though consequences for breaking contract was the highest priority, the board also wants to push the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) to provide more flexibility on who can enter the classrooms.

The district believes the SBEC should:

  • Eliminate surcharges with the Teacher Retirement System and allow retired teachers an immediate return to work without a retirement reduction.
  • Look at certifications from teachers from other states and allow that certification to flow faster in the state of Texas.
  • Allow for people with a high school diploma, GED or equivalent to work as substitutes.
  • Impose consequences for teachers who break contracts mid-year.

During the Jan. 20 meeting, eight Pflugerville ISD teachers were called out for leaving their contracts mid-year.

“Being called out was especially hurtful. The statement that was read made us out to be bad people,” former Hendrickson High School teacher Amanda Gass said. “It made it feel like we didn’t care about the children. That’s just not the case. We wouldn’t have done this job for as many years as we did.”

The Pflugerville board argued that the processes and procedures for resignation were not followed correctly, and the teachers didn’t have a reason for abandoning a contract.

“I make a motion that Pflugerville ISD decline to accept the resignation. I further move to authorize the board to provide notice to the Texas Education Agency of the board’s findings,” said Place 5 Trustee Brian Allen.

Gass spent her entire career at Hendrickson — where she often took on a heavy load teaching three different courses, two of which were AP courses.

“It’s a job that has been challenging prior to COVID and has become nearly impossible to do well,” said Gass. “I got to the point where I looked at finances in the Austin area and realized that it wasn’t a sustainable job for me anymore.”

Gass quit at the end of December but left behind videos and online resources to help her students.

“If they couldn’t find someone to cover me, the kids still had access to all of the materials,” Gass said. “Watching the Omicron surge, it was the right time to leave. I’m watching my friends get sick and it’s really sad.”

Gass moved to a corporate job, but her resignation from Pflugerville ISD isn’t going down easy.

“I understand that this is a very hard time, and people need to make their own decisions, we will respect that. Moving forward, we will be holding staff accountable and it’s causing harm to our students and we can’t have that,” said Jean Mayer Place 6 Trustee.

It’s a sticky situation for many Central Texas teachers looking for their next move.

KXAN’s Kaitlyn Karmout asked Gass if she fears the potential consequences of the TEA’s review.

“Only that I don’t know that I’m done with teaching forever. I think, in the back of my head, maybe I would do something else for a bit and when I’m financially stable could come back to teaching. Who knows what the TEA will do, they have a lot of options,” Gass said.

The Pflugerville’s board unanimously voted to approve the Pflugerville Legislative Advocacy Committee’s recommendations.