The Amphitheater School district has responded to a House Bill that prohibits districts from laying off one employee and keeping another based on tenure or seniority.

After five months of research and development, and a 94-percent approval rating from members of the Amphitheater Education Association, the school board has adopted a staff reduction in force (RIF) procedure.

AEA President John Fife worked with six administrators and six representatives from AEA on the new procedure. The new procedure creation was spawned by a change in state law and from a chaotic RIF notification process last year.

“I’m pleased that we now have a policy,” Fife said last week. “I know that employees were very concerned about the possibility of a RIF and really wanted to know how they might be affected by it. This policy will at least let them see where they stand and provide them with some opportunities maybe to improve scores here and there.”

With the procedure in place, if the district has to reduce staff due to declining district enrollment, declines in state or federal budgets, or for any other reason the school board deems worthy, it will first look to reduce staff through resignations, retirement and termination of short-term contracted teachers.

After those reductions have been assessed, the superintendent will then look at third-party contracted staff members, people who have retired and then returned to the district under a retiree contract, and staff who are not appropriately certified, or, when valid, highly qualified in their area of expertise.

After those avenues are exhausted, the district will now turn to a checklist and point scale that were modeled from a survey gathered from about 800 teachers and staff members.

That survey helped Fife and others decide the grounds teachers and staff thought people should be given RIF notices for, along with being in compliance with new state law.

First, staff felt disciplinary actions, letters of reprimand, and suspensions without pay should be taken into account. Secondly, formal evaluations should be considered, followed by certifications, experience, professional development, attendance, and leadership. Lastly, collectively, the faculty within the district thought student achievement should be last, with the understanding that “student achievement” for one teacher is not the same as it is for another teacher.

This procedure comes on the heels of a continuing decline from state and federal funding for the past few years, which culminated a little more than a year ago when 245 teachers and staff members within the district, were given RIF notices. The large amount of notices were given so the district could cover its basis if a proposition for a one percent sales tax increase did not pass and it would have to lay off teachers.

Teachers were comforted at school board meetings by students, and students reacted by supporting their teachers and rallying in front of schools wearing pink shirts “for pink slips,” though no teacher had yet to be laid off.

The proposition did pass, and the district RIF’ed 50 employees.

Associate to the Superintendent Todd Jaeger brought the proposed policy to the governing board last week with the recommendation they adopt it.

“Last year we had to RIF a large number of teachers, only to have to ask them to come back,” Jaeger said last Tuesday night at the school board meeting. “It was very disruptive.”

In his PowerPoint presentation, one of Jaeger’s slides read, “A RIF should impact as few people as possible, both in terms of ultimate outcome and the proceeding process.”

Last year, Superintendent Vicki Balentine described the notification process as “a hacksaw,” where as this new procedure has been commonly described as “surgical.”

Fife told the board last Tuesday night he hoped they “adopt it with the hope it never has to be used.”

The board unanimously adopted the new procedure.

In the case a teacher is RIF’ed, the teacher will retain their point-score, and if budgets allow, will be rehired in their numerical order from highest to lowest.

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