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Brandon School District to bring back half of pink-slipped teachers

July 18, 2012 - Brandon Twp.- Glass half-empty or half-full?

Anticipating a possible budget shortfall of more than $1.3 million, the school board pink-slipped 28 teachers this spring. At their July 16 meeting, the board unanimously approved the recall of 14 of those teachers, exactly half.

"We laid off more than we needed to— we do that because we have to make sure we have covered all our bases," explained Superintendent Lorrie McMahon. "The 14 recalled teachers we can accommodate in the new budget. Any more recalls will depend on how we proceed with financial information we get. We don't yet know the retirement rate (what the district must contribute to teachers' retirement funds), we won't know student enrollment until the fall, and we don't have the teachers' contract settled. We will have to see how things work out, but I'm very pleased the board chose to put the students first."

The recalled teachers are for Kindergarten through sixth grades, and McMahon said this means "elementary will have reasonable class sizes." But, she added, it remains to be seen how middle school and high school classes will work out for size.

In the teachers' contract, which expired at the end of June, teachers were to be laid off by seniority. Teachers with the least amount of time in the district are laid-off first, and of those, ones with the most seniority are called back first. Seniority has been a deciding factor for years with teacher lay-offs. With changes in state law, it will not be a deciding factor unless all other considerations are equal.

"This spring, the legislature passed laws that said we can no longer use seniority as the standard for lay-off and recalling of teachers and we can't negotiate it," said McMahon.

Because of the passage of these laws, the school board unanimously approved policy changes during their July 16 meeting regarding placement of teachers and staff reductions/recalls.

Among the new language:

"Teachers rated as ineffective in the final year-end evaluation under the district's performance evaluation system shall not be given preference over a teacher who is evaluated as minimally effective, effective, or highly effective," and "Probationary teachers rated as effective or highly effective in the final year-end evaluation shall not be displaced by a teacher on continuing tenure solely because the other teacher has continuing tenure."

McMahon noted there would have to be "real evidence" of a lack of student achievement before a teacher that has tenure loses their position, but tenure is weakened and will not play into placement of teachers or the lay-off and recall of a teacher.

The district has common assessments to use in evaluating teachers, including MEAP tests for grades 3-8. The district is still developing the evaluation process.

"The important thing is the students grow in their learning, are not stagnant, and move down the road toward success in academics," said McMahon. "Overall, (the policy changes) encourages all of us to do a better job. It's another unfunded mandate, but one we support… Before, the primary decider was seniority. I look at our teachers and they all work hard. I think we will see them all proven effective. If everything is equal, it will fall back to seniority."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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