Role of seniority in Reduction in Force decisions

Based on concerns about the need to ensure that our teaching staff reflects the size and needs of our student population, our board will be presenting a resolution at the upcoming VSBA meeting regarding the role of seniority in Reduction in Force (RIF) decisions. Specifically, we would like to grant administrators the ability to consider multiple factors including but not limited to seniority. We are interested in hearing from other boards who have provisions in their master agreements that use factors in addition to seniority to decide which staff will be impacted by a RIF.

  1. Our master agreement includes seniority as part of the consideration in RIF, and it is a determining factor when all else such as qualification, performance and needs of the district are equal.

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  2. I could picture job title and licensure being a consideration in RIFs, but beyond this, seniority is a pretty basic component of all faculty and support staff contracts I’ve seen in Vermont.  Good luck.

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  3. Our contracts use seniority as the first criteria and qualifications as the second. Qualifications trump seniortiy in RIF’s.

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  4. This is a contract issue in our SU, and therefore negotiated locally. I do not see the role of a VSBA resolution here. Perhaps you could explain the connection further so that you could get more feedback prior to the annual meeting.

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    The above cited New York report is the most rational arguments I have read on the subject.
    To which I would add the a clear board of directors perspective.  Our overwhelming resposibilty is to STUDENTS, then to taxapayera and lastly to employees (teachers).
    Typical teacher effectiveness peaks at about 5 years. Good for Students.
    Laying off high seniority teachers saves the most money.  Good for taxpayers.

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  6. What we have done is specify very clearly in our master agreement what we require in terms of qualifications and certifications per grade level cluster and subject area, then incorporated a very strong “management rights” provision as a seperate section.  Our management rights section grants to our administration, subject to the specific terms in the agreement, the ability to decide how to best manage staffing and to make decisions when they are deemed to be in the best interests of the district.  There are so many potential situations that could arise in a RIF situation that it would be difficult to craft a master agreement that address all the “what-ifs”, and such an agreement would be unmanageable if adopted.  This construct has worked for us; we have argued and won against challenges in the grievance process.
    Good luck!   

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  7. I have been part of a number of negotiating teams that have worked to broaden this language. It has been difficult but we have made some progress. Trying to legislate  a single item such as RIF language would be very difficult. The broader issue is to change the negotiating dialogue to address and resolve issues of 24/7 learning in a global education environment. This dialogue may well include new RIF language but as a part of a total 21st century agreement.

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  8. “Seniority” should continue to be a “factor” in the decisions relative to the matter of “RIF’s”.
    Having said that; as is the case in with any profession; as the age of  professional increases, their attitude to method “changes” often, but not always, becomes a bigger issue.
    If our concern in making changes to increase  or improve useful knowledge to the students, then, as administrators,  we must always provide the most effective “resources’ and methods that are available to the student body.  

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  9. Our board has successfully taken two tacks on this subject.  One, we have offered a substantial “early retirement” cash bonus for those who are interested….amounts to $25,000. distributed over 3 years.
    Second, and not as attractive, we have employed professional evaluation and teacher goals for increased improvement in teaching skills.  If this is not met, the person is put on professional growth plan and if ignored or not achieved, the series of next steps would be taken to remove the teacher.

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  10. Oh my Gosh, this would make our live so much easier having already gone through a RIF from consolidation and a previous RIF from budget limits.  The critical issue is that the seniority priority ultimately ends up bouncing some really good younger teachers who are far more technologically capable and better prepared for the shift to 21st century skills.
    We have gone through a round of buy outs with some success but they can not be targeted, but rather go down the list of seniority.
    We do have contractual language in our contract to equally consider performance and preparedness.   However, evidence is the bugger that result into falling back on seniority as the only measure, because it is a straight forward measurement.   
    I know many boards try this, but they end up in a lawsuit or arbitration.   
    Very Important:   As much as the state harps on equity, any district with a high number of senior teachers, comes accross as high spending, when such is not the case and depending on the contract rates, they may actually have a lower pay scale comparatively but this does not appear so in total spending.
    Having said all of this, great teachers are worth it regardless of their seniority.  Its just that you can end up being stuck with a less capable teacher because seniority is easy to establish.

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  11. School boards have agreed to seniority as one of the primary criteria for RIF.  It is not imposed by the union.
    What teacher would want to teach if he or she was going to be laid off after 5 years so a new less expensive teacher could be hired.  The average teacher may peak after five years, but not all teachers are average.  I know many who have taught for 30 years and are excellent teachers.

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  12. Our board worked very hard many years ago to include language in our contract that says RIFs will be based on seniority unless there is a “demonstrably significant difference in professional performance…” This, of course, requires good evaluation systems. But it has stood us in good stead several times, and was worth the struggle to incorporate into our contract.
    I also support the comment made about early retirement. We found the union supportive of such a program, knowing that it was a way to ease out some senior teachers, and accepting this as a face-saving strategy for the teacher. It’s not expensive (paid for with turnover savings) and, as I said, supported by the union.

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