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8:25 AM Sat, Nov. 17th

New PUSD policy will eliminate RIF based on seniority or tenure

Prescott Education Association (PEA) President Mike McCrady says he understands why the Prescott Unified School District Governing Board must adopt a new Professional Staff Reduction in Force (RIF) policy.

"Really, this is the Arizona Legislature's attempt to punish teachers for standing up for kids," McCrady told the governing board on Tuesday.

The governing board took a first look at a policy change eliminating termination based on seniority or tenure.

"This is the Legislature telling boards they can't figure out how to run their schools," McCrady said. "The PEA is a professional organization. If any of the teachers in the district are found to be inadequate, we are going to work with them. I do appreciate that you have to vote on this."

Governing Board President Joan Fleming agrees that the new RIF policy requirements are "retribution from the Legislature."

PUSD Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Joe Howard told the board members that the district's legal team "recommends adoption of the new policy to be in line with new legislation."

According to Howard, the current RIF policy is four pages and tedious, and "against the letter of the new law."

The district superintendent and principals will submit to the governing board recommendations for staff terminations. The criteria for these recommendations include:

• Qualifications and certification of staff members to accomplish the district's educational program, including certification requirements for specialty categories and designation as a highly qualified teacher.

• Overall teaching experience, academic training and ability.

• Past contributions to the educational program of the district.

The proposed policy also states that district will notify staff of any layoffs as soon as practical.

"This is not a 'gotcha' thing," Superintendent Dave Smucker told the board. "That is not how it is intended. Teachers will know what to expect and there will be no surprises."

Smucker explained that teacher evaluations are a critical component in the decision to RIF staff.

"The new policy does provide some flexibility when we look at numbers and have to cut staff," Smucker noted.

Howard said the new policy allows the district to wait until "it is more practical" to RIF staff.

Two years ago, PUSD sent RIF letters in April to staff members with two years or less experience with the district. Legislation required early notification despite the fact that the Legislature had yet to approve a state budget.

Governing board member Steve Campbell said, "We can't use tenure to RIF, but it is interesting that one of the bullet points is teacher experience."

The governing board will vote on the new reduction in force policy Sept. 14.