New Changes to the Teacher Reduction in Force Procedures

 July 1, 2014

By Jacqueline M. Litra

On June 13, 2014, House Bill 5546 was signed into law as Public Act 98-0648.  This Amendatory Act is the most recent amendment to Senate Bill 7. The Act significantly amends the reduction in force procedures established in SB 7 by creating recall rights for certain teachers reduced from Group Two.

Now, if a school board has any vacancies from the beginning of the term following the reduction in force through February 1 of that term, such positions must be offered to qualified teachers dismissed from Group 2 with a “Needs Improvement” evaluation rating on either of their last two evaluations.  If a teacher has more than one rating, the other rating must be proficient or better for recall rights to apply. These new recall rights do not apply to teachers rated “Unsatisfactory.” These changes apply to layoffs made during the 2013-2014 school year.

These recall rights apply to probationary teachers laid off from Group 2.  Accordingly, it is important that school districts use the non-renewal process and not the layoff process for probationary teachers who are not making the cut.

The Act codifies the fact that only one evaluation rating each term may be used for determining the sequence of honorable dismissal. If there are multiple performance evaluations during a school year (other than evaluations as part of a remediation plan), the last evaluation before the sequence of honorable dismissal list is established will be the one evaluation used. School districts may only average multiple evaluation ratings without agreement from the union.

The Act also clarifies that the sequence of honorable dismissal list, which districts are required to provide to the union at least 75 days before the end of the school year, must include teachers by name and categorized by position and group.

Your attorneys at Scariano, Himes and Petrarca stand ready to assist you in navigating the ever-changing reduction in force procedures and your re-defined responsibilities under this Act.

SENATE BILL 7 ANALYSIS – PART TWO - EVALUATIONS

 July 19, 2011

By: Jessica M. Bargnes

In Part 2 of this firm’s analysis of Senate Bill 7, we address Senate Bill 7’s reliance upon recent changes in the teacher evaluation process.  Much of Senate Bill 7 relates to the new evaluation procedures put in place in 2010, through the Performance Evaluation Review Act (“PERA”).

PERA requires that each school district develop an evaluation plan incorporating the use of data and indicators on student growth as a factor in rating performance.  Such factors must be implemented in the lowest performing 20% of school districts on or before September 1, 2015.  For the remainder of school districts, the new evaluation plan must be implemented on or before September 1, 2016.

All evaluators undertaking evaluations after September 1, 2012 must be trained in an ISBE-approved program, and teachers must be rated as “excellent,” “proficient,” “needs improvement,” or “unsatisfactory.”  All probationary teachers must be evaluated at least annually, and tenured teachers must be evaluated at least every two years.

1.         Senate Bill 7 changes the manner in which a school district may fill new and vacant positions.

In filling new and vacant positions, a school district may consider certification, qualifications, merit, ability (including performance evaluations), and relevant experience.  The length of continuing service with a school district must not be considered, unless all other factors among two candidates are considered to be equal. Whether a performance evaluation was performed in accordance with PERA will bear upon such consideration, in that PERA evaluations should be given more weight than non-PERA evaluations.

A school district’s decision to select a candidate for a new or vacant position shall not be subject to review under grievance resolution procedures in the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (IELRA) so long as the school district does not fail to comply with the procedural requirements set forth in the school district’s collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”).

In the event that the school district’s CBA does provide for the filling of new and vacant positions, those provisions will remain in effect for the remainder of the term of the CBA.  At a minimum, your CBA should clarify when a “vacancy” exists.

2.         Senate  Bill  7  makes  changes  regarding  the  State  Superintendent’s  suspension, revocation, or limiting an individual’s teaching certificate through its definition of “incompetency.”

The State Superintendent has the authority to suspend, revoke, or limit an individual’s teaching certificate for “incompetency.” “Incompetency” is defined as receiving an “unsatisfactory” performance evaluation in two or more school terms within a seven (7) year period.

In determining whether to suspend, revoke, or limit an individual’s teaching certificate based on incompetency, the State Superintendent will consider whether the unsatisfactory evaluations occurred prior to Senate Bill 7 taking effect; whether the unsatisfactory evaluations occurred prior to the implementation date of the recently passed evaluation procedures described in the PERA; whether the evaluators who rated the teacher unsatisfactory had completed proper training under the PERA; the time between the ratings; the quality of the remediation plans; whether the unsatisfactory ratings were related to the same or different assignments; or whether the unsatisfactory ratings occurred during the first year of an assignment.

As an alternative to suspension or revocation, the State Superintendent may require that the teacher receive additional professional development, at the teacher’s expense.

Please do not hesitate to contact Scariano, Himes and Petrarca, Chtd., with any questions about teacher evaluations.

SENATE BILL 7 ANALYSIS - PART ONE- TENURE

 June 21, 2011

 By: Jessica M. Bargnes

On June 13, 2011, Governor Quinn signed Senate Bill 7 into law, effectuating changes in various aspects of the School Code including the attainment of tenure, tenured teacher dismissal, reductions in force, and the bargaining process, among other provisions.

This e-Blackboard is the first in a series addressing the educational reforms implemented by Senate Bill 7.  This e- Blackboard specifically addresses changes to the tenure process under Senate Bill 7.

Attainment of Tenure

All currently employed teachers, as well as those teachers hired prior to a school district’s implementation of the Performance Evaluation Review Act (PERA), will earn tenure in accordance with the standard four year tenure requirements currently in place in the School Code.  “PERA” refers to recent legislation amending the teacher evaluation process, as outlined in the School Code at 105 ILCS 5/24A.  Outside Chicago, PERA will be implemented in 2015 for school districts in the lowest performing 20% statewide, and in 2016 for all other school districts.

After a school district implements PERA, the four year probationary period is accelerated to three years when a teacher obtains ratings of “Excellent” in each of the first three probationary years.  Should a teacher not receive a rating of “Excellent” in each of the first three years, the four year probationary period applies.

Additionally, during the four year probationary period, teachers must demonstrate proficiency in order to attain tenure.  To demonstrate proficiency, the teacher must receive a “Proficient” or “Excellent” rating in two out of the last three years of the probationary period, including the final year.   If a teacher does not attain Proficient or Excellent ratings in two out of three years, the teacher cannot attain tenure and the district must dismiss the teacher.  Should a district fail to perform an annual evaluation of a teacher, the teacher will be deemed to be proficient for that year.

Should a school district choose to dismiss a probationary teacher, the school district must provide the teacher with notice forty-five days prior to the end of the school term. Fourth year probationary teachers must continue to receive a specific reason for the dismissal.

A teacher must work at least 120 days of a school year in order to have that year count toward tenure.  If a teacher takes FMLA leave, that leave will count toward the 120 day requirement.  If a teacher does not work at least 120 days, the teacher will not be deemed to have had a break in service, but that year will not count toward the attainment of tenure.

If, for any reason, the boundaries of a school district change, a teacher will not lose his or her tenure, but that tenure will transfer to the newly formed district.

Portability of Tenure

In the past, tenure has not been portable from school district to school district.  Now, under Senate Bill 7, to a certain extent tenure is portable.  A teacher may obtain tenure within two years at a new school district if the teacher was rated “Proficient” or “Excellent” in the final two years of employment at the teacher’s previous district, and if the teacher obtains two “Excellent” ratings in the first two years at the new district.  In order to qualify for this shortened probationary period, the teacher must have been honorably discharged or left the previous district voluntarily, and must have been tenured in the previous district.

Please do not hesitate to contact Scariano, Himes and Petrarca, Chtd., with any questions about the changes to the tenure process outlined herein, or any other aspect of Senate Bill 7 about which you may have questions.