Union County Board of Education adopts reduction in force proposal
As the state of North Carolina works to finalize education budget cuts for the upcoming academic year, the Union County Board of Education is developing a game plan for coping with fewer funds.
At the forefront of concerns is the issue of job cuts. In an effort to effectively manage the cuts and decide which positions need to be eliminated, the board has adopted a reduction in force (RIF) proposal.
The proposal was sent out in a memo by superintendent Dr. Ed Davis and deputy superintendent of human resources Dr. David Clarke on Tuesday to the board members and was discussed that evening at the monthly board meeting.
According to the memo, “the RIF relates to central services staff, assistant principals, teachers, curriculum coordinators, school counselors, media specialists, exceptional children’s related service providers, school psychologists, school social workers, and school nurses.”
Davis does not have an estimate on the number of positions that will need to be eliminated, but did say that other job categories not listed in the memo may also see reductions as economic conditions become clearer.
The proposal establishes a number of criteria that will be used to decide which positions will be eliminated. The first criterion is performance evaluations for the 2010-2011 academic year.
Any staff member with a summative evaluation that reflects a “not demonstrated” or “developing” rating will be reduced. “If that doesn’t take care of enough teachers or staff…then you look at individual evaluations,” said Davis.
Reductions will consider program enrollment and whether there is an excess of teachers in a particular subject or grade area. Priority will be given to staff with joint certifications, rare and special skills, advanced degrees, or professional development.
Staff with a discipline record, including warnings or reprimands, will be considered for reduction. Length of service in the public school system, particularly in Union County, will work to the advantage of staff when eliminations begin.
The RIF is directly related to the continuing decrease in funding at the state and county levels. Although the state of North Carolina has yet to announce the official budget for the 2011-2012 academic year, it was reported at the Tuesday evening meeting that school officials are expecting a 10 percent cut in funding for the upcoming year.
The state has until June 30 to announce its budget, but Union County is going ahead and using the 10 percent figure to help map out the RIF and the upcoming budget in general.
Davis felt strongly that decisions need to be made as soon as possible, so that staff members aren’t being notified of reductions in late July, losing their jobs in the eleventh hour. “We are going to move forward and make the best guess we can,” said Davis.
The RIF requires that the superintendent notify an employee of the intention to recommend that employee for reduction prior to addressing this recommendation at a board meeting. In turn, this allows the employee 15 days following the receipt of the notice to request a hearing before the board.
Several board members questioned this process and how it would benefit the employees who choose to file a hearing. Legal counsel Michele Morris explained that the hearing could allow an employee to address a number of issues, dispute his or her evaluations, or challenge the criteria used to eliminate the position. “It really could be anything,” Morris said.
Prior to voting, board member Laura Minsk stressed the importance of understanding what this proposal means and being committed to standing by it. “Given how upset some parents were last year with just having teachers shifted, it’s important that we understand what we’re approving here,” she said. “This is not an easy thing to do, and I think we need to make sure we’re okay with this.”
The board voted unanimously to approve the RIF. However, one amendment was made prior to the vote, which would allow the superintendent to consider previous years’ performance evaluations during the reduction process if necessary. This was originally omitted from the proposal due to the change in evaluation systems during the 2010-2011 academic year.