HUNTINGTON — Cabell County Board of Education members heard the second of three readings Tuesday for new policy changes to determine how and which elementary schoolteachers will be affected by reduction-in-force (RIF) and subsequent preferred recalls.
Reduction-in-force policy is common in many workforces, particularly in education, in which employees are removed from their positions, often due to lack of funding or reorganization. In the past, Cabell County had a policy to make RIFs based on seniority.
In June, Gov. Jim Justice signed into law an omnibus education bill that, among other things, gave teachers a pay raise and opened the door to charter schools in the state. The bill also outlined that RIFs must be done based on teachers’ qualifications instead of just seniority, said Assistant Superintendent Tim Hardesty.
“They said the county boards would have to develop policy or modify their policy to identify what is a ‘qualified teacher’ and what the ‘highly qualified teacher’ would be or what the ‘most qualified teacher’ would be,” Hardesty said.
Hardesty proposed updating three county policy statutes involving Reduction In Force, Reduction in Classroom Teaching in Elementary Schools and Preferred Recall List. They will be rewritten to place a higher priority on qualification rather than simply seniority when selecting teachers for RIF, transfer and preferred recall. Seniority is, however, to be considered among other attributes that would contribute to being overall qualified.
Cabell County Schools “RIFed” 128 employees in April, though nearly all were hired back to positions within the county by the start of the next school year in August.
RIFs at the school level could be the product of schools eliminating or changing certain course offerings or programming or simply if the district cannot guarantee it will continue the position in the next school year. In the past, these typically impacted younger employees with less service time.
One example would be if a kindergarten teacher position was eliminated based on declining enrollment, meaning that teacher could then bid on other positions in his or her certification posted prior to the next school year.
Once employees receive a RIF notice, they may rebid on new job postings listed by the county prior to the school year, with preferred recall granted to RIF recipients.
In the past, more senior employees could instead be transferred to new positions within their certification, as the RIF and rehiring process most often affects staff with less service time. The policy, if approved, would no longer weigh seniority as the sole determinant for a transfer, but rather qualification for a new role.
Cabell County Schools is staffed by around 1,250 professional employees and roughly 590 service personnel.
Policy changes require three readings before the board can take a binding vote. At the earliest, the changes could be fully ratified at the board’s Nov. 19 meeting.
Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.