On Thursday, the state department of education released a press release stating that four school districts – Vermilion, St. Bernard, St. Martin and St. Tammany – are all refusing to end seniority-based layoffs for teachers and principals, according to Act 1 of the 2012 Regular Legislative Session.
Act 1, according to the state-issued press release, says Act 1 requires layoffs to be based “soley” on demand, performance and effectiveness.
Vermilion Parish School Board attorney Calvin “Woody” Woodruff said Thursday night after the state issued the press release that Vermilion Parish has a board policy in place that is the same as the state’s. The parish’s primary way to institute a reduction in force is based solely on measures of demand, performance and effectiveness for teachers and principals.
Where the state and the parish differ is the second criterion as a way to reduce teachers or principals. Woodruff said if there is a tie in trying to layoff a teacher and the school board needed a tie breaker, it would to go the second criterion - which is seniority or tenure. Woodruff said the state, just recently, said the parish can not use seniority or tenure as a second criterion.
Woodruff argues that Vermilion Parish School Board has reached an agreement with the parish’s teachers’ union before school began on using seniority or tenure as a secondary way to reduce a staff. He said the school board can not delete the clause about the second criterion because the state wants it to. Two of the three districts mentioned in the press release also have teachers’ unions. St. Bernard and St. Tammany and Vermilion are top 15 ranked school districts in the state.
Woodruff informed the school board members that in a press release (which ran in Friday’s Meridional), it encourages readers to click to a Web site that lays out sample language on how the state wants to reduce teachers and principals.
It states on the website that: “Seniority and tenure shall not be used when instituting a reduction of force.” However, in the next paragraph it states: “Seniority or tenure shall not be used as the primary criterion considered”
The Vermilion Parish School Board used the second line when it came up with its second criterion. Because of that, Woodruff said, Vermilion Parish is getting thrown under the bus as not protecting good teachers who may not have tenure or seniority.
School Board member Anthony Fontana did not speak too highly of the state’s education department after hearing Woodruff.
“This is an opportunity for Jindal’s administration to bad mouth public education,” said Fontana. “This is another attack on public education. We are not going to stand for it. We have to stand up and fight.”
The first time that a state official contacted Randy Schexnayder, Superintendent of Vermilion Parish Schools, about the RIF policy was through a phone conversation on Wednesday, October 17, 2012.
“The state official stated that seniority and tenure clauses needed to be removed from the policy, but further stated as Superintendent, I could use these two pieces of criteria when I make my decision when it comes to laying off teachers.”
Jerome Puyau, Superintendent Elect of Vermilion Parish Schools further stated “Our policy does protect great teachers by adding more objective criteria, it takes away the possibility of politics coming into play whether it is the board or superintendent who institutes it. Vermilion Parish respects the experience, certification, and training that great teachers have achieved through the years and has always placed these criteria for major consideration in hiring which is a major reason that Vermilion Parish has been so successful with student achievement.”