Madison School Board Drops attempt at Changing Teacher Seniority Requirement for Layoffs

Scott Girard:

The Madison School Board will not discuss controversial changes proposed to the Employee Handbook Monday night as planned.

Board president Gloria Reyes announced in a press release sent by Madison Metropolitan School District spokesperson Tim LeMonds Monday afternoon that the item had been removed from the agenda and would be discussed at a special meeting at a later date.

“This change in the agenda is to provide additional direction and allow for more discussion and collaboration with stakeholders prior to any board discussion and subsequent action on employee handbook changes,” the statement reads.

The changes included a few items that Madison Teachers Inc. opposed. The union had been organizing its membership to speak Monday night before the meeting or send emails to board members opposing changes to layoff rules, specifically.

District administration had recommended the changes, which would shift the criteria for layoffs or shifting surplus staff among schools from seniority to a series of performance measurements like Educator Effectiveness evaluations, cultural competence and experience, among other things.

Kelley Meyerhofer:

The Madison School Board president hit pause on proposed employee handbook changes scheduled for a Monday evening vote that would have handed Madison School District more control in laying off staff and expediting the termination process.

The district’s teachers union had pushed back against the proposal and the way in which it came about, saying administrators were engaging in a “divide and conquer” strategy during a time of crisis that would destroy a decades-long working relationship with Madison Teachers Inc. and the thousands of employees it represents.

District administrators had proposed eliminating seniority as the sole criteria to lay off employees or move individuals to different schools. Instead, the chief of schools would have selected employees for layoffs in consultation with principals.

Officials also requested allowing for 30-day layoff notices instead of the annual May 15 layoff notices.

Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore said in materials made public last week that the changes would help the district diversify its workforce and provide more financial flexibility at a time when it is bracing for coronavirus-related budget cuts.