The Executive Committee on Monday took the first of four steps toward adopting the revisions. It was received from Supt. Interim Supt. Donnie Perron and forwarded to the board for review at its meeting next week.
Then the policy will return to committee for consideration at a special meeting before going back to the board at a special meeting on March 15, squeezing into two weeks what would normally take two months or more.
Perron initially asked the committee to consider approving the new policy this week and sending it on to the board, bypassing the review-only steps in light of the short time frame for properly laying off employees.
Board member John Miller convinced the committee to stick to the normal process, though compressing the elapsed time.
Committee member Scott Richard, noting the urgency to revised the policy and pointing out the established procedure for considering policy changes, moved for the special meeting schedule and Eunice member Harry Fruge seconded.
“It’s incumbent that all this is done carefully and properly,” Fruge noted.
Perron said some board members were called to a meeting with the Legislative Auditor’s Office were advised to get the RIF ball rolling now.
Board President Kyle Budd, among those attending the sit-down, said the auditor’s office agreed a multi-million dollar deficit appears in the offing for the next fiscal year, coming on the heels of this year’s red-ink projection which still hovers near $4 million. The two-year total could be $10 million, Perron said.
“We have to have this in place before school is out in order to have the fiscal year play out,” Perron said in asking for accelerated consideration.
Employee representatives at the session were miffed they had not been allowed to participate in the policy revision process after asking for the opportunity.
Perron said that was his call, that he felt it best that that work be done by the administration.
The board, at the urging of former Supt. Mike Nassif, adopted a declaration of financial exigency last summer, hoping to avoid RIF but laying the legal foundation.
Nassif, certified as ill, left in the fall. Perron has been picking up the pieces since.
The proposed policy would require that the board first “layoff all non-tenured retirees returning to work in every category before laying off any other employee, except in those situations in which retention of such an employee is specifically warranted.”
Additionally, prior to the layoff of certified personnel, non-certified teachers will be addressed. Staff with the lowest seniority – the shortest, uninterrupted time teaching in the system – would be first out.
Then, teachers working outside of their certification area will be laid off. Seniority, academic preparation and total years of teaching experience – in that order – will then come into play. There is an exception.
“Teachers employed in areas for which there is a shortage of teachers may be retained despite lesser seniority, academic preparation or total years of experience,” the proposed policy reads.
Support staff – paraprofessional, clerical staff, maintenance staff, custodians, bus drivers and other non-teachers – would have layoffs based on seniority, then education level.
Laid-off employees could be rehired for up to a year after they are dismissed if a position becomes available. They can continue to use district health insurance provided they pay 100 percent of the monthly premium.
Those wishfully thinking for the past three months that the financial situation might get better with time got more bad news later in the day when Director of Finance Tressa Miller told the Finance Committee that the current year deficit project remains near $4 million.
Perron has been unable to convince a majority of the board to adopt substantive budget cuts. Employees arguing they shouldn’t pay for what they label staff or board mismanagement have prevailed since December.
The kind of thing they point to was noted in the annual audit report reviewed for Finance on Monday. Auditors noted that Nassif approved more than $1 million in change orders for renovations at the Pupil Appraisal Center rather than getting required board approval.
Auditors said the work would likely have been approved as necessary but nonetheless policy had not been followed. Employees pointed to the change orders as a symptom of what they consider the system’s illness.
Nassif, officially on sick leave, has not responded to such allegations and has not spoken publicly about the system since his departure.
Some board members want to talk about his contract and possible termination of the $113,000 a year pact; others caution against treating his case any differently than any other employee.
Board member Charles Ross said Monday that if Nassif chooses not to appear at a committee discussion of his contract and his status that is his choice. “We are the employer and he’s the employee and he’s controlling the board’s action. That’s out of order,” Ross said.