San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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February 20th, 2012
School district shortens layoff notice period

by SEAN BATURA

San Marcos CISD administrators say they will have a better idea of what resources are available for staffing from year to year, though the local teachers association says this will come at the cost of job security for its members.

Until a month ago, SMCISD staff with expiring employment contracts had 45 days before the end of the school year to know whether the district intended to rehire them. School board trustees voted unanimously on Jan. 23 to shorten the notice period to 10 days.

The Texas State Teachers Association-San Marcos Chapter conducted a survey of its members on the issue and all who responded opposed the policy change, said Susan Seaton, who is president of the chapter.

“This reducing of the notification period gives the district more time to make up its mind about a teacher or an employee, but it also gives the teacher or non-renewed administrator less time to consider the options for their future,” Seaton said to trustees before they voted on the matter. “We’ve had no salary increase, our health care insurance premiums have increased, and we are being asked to do more with less money. Public school employees, while being underpaid public servants, are dedicated to the success of their students, and we believe that it’s only right that what we lack in compensation should be offset in respectful, dignified treatment.”

Lolly Guerra, San Marcos CISD assistant superintendent for human resources, said the notification time reduction may help the district save jobs. She said the 45-day policy meant the district had to make staffing decisions in February and March, though it does not have an accurate idea of available resources until May, June, or July.

“It gives district more flexibility in making decisions, especially in times of such financial constraint,” Guerra said of the new 10-day policy.

The district’s current general fund budget reflects cuts totaling nearly $2.8 million due to reduced state funding from the 82nd Texas Legislature, said former assistant superintendent Mike Abild shortly before trustees adopted this year’s budget. He said the district expects $2.2 million less in state funding this budget year and $4 million less next year, compared to last budget year’s funding levels.

“One current argument for the policy change would involve the later notification of bad or ineffective teachers,” Seaton said. “We believe that there are other ways of dealing with these situations other than placing an undue hardship on all effective contract employees. We believe that abandoning this policy places an undue burden on employees and administrators.”

The Texas Legislature last session passed Senate Bill 8, which allowed for the notification time reduction. The Texas Association of School Boards, of which San Marcos CISD is a member, advised school districts to extend the contract non-renewal notice deadline. San Marcos CISD’s board policy committee, which is composed of board trustees Judy Allen, David Castillo, and David Chiu, assessed TASB’s recommendation and advised the full board to follow it, Guerra said.

According to an August 2011 TASB factsheet, extending the deadline allows additional time for personnel evaluations, limits the duration of employment for employees following notice of non-renewal, and provides districts with more time to “get a read on” legislative budget plans and property taxes during the budgeting process. The factsheet also says the policy change is beneficial because it separates the contract non-renewal notice date from the annual state standardized testing period, thereby deferring a potential source of stress for teachers during an important time. Additionally, TASB says the policy change reduces the chance that districts will put employees through “a painful firing process” to comply with notification deadlines, only to rehire them at a later date.

The same day San Marcos CISD trustees voted for the change, Hays CISD’s board went in the opposite direction and was consequently lauded by the Hays Educators Association.

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2 thoughts on “School district shortens layoff notice period

  1. This just sounds broken, all the way around. If decisions were being made in February or March, because of the 45 day requirement, this would seem to push those decisions out no further than April. If the district “does not have an accurate idea of available resources until May, June, or July,” then this would seem to provide limited (questionable) benefit.

    There must be a way to get things to line up better, preferably without putting contracted employees in a tough spot. It would be interesting to see how other districts handle this – when they review/renew contracts, the start/end dates for those contracts, the notification period, etc.

  2. I know how we could save $100,000….,,,… and it would be easy……. Just have school board elections at the same time using the same equipment and locations as other local elections instead of their own independent election. It is the right thing to do for so many reasons.

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