Two months after learning they would have to instate major changes to teacher contracts, salary, tenure and layoffs, the Payson Unified School District began grappling with the issue Monday night.
Earlier this year, the Arizona Legislature made sweeping changes to teacher contracts without much public debate during an emergency budget session. So far, the Payson Unified School District has had little discussion on the changes.
At a special school board meeting Monday night, the board finally received a copy of the Legislature’s changes, which went into effect statewide Nov. 24 and will be adopted by PUSD at the next board meeting. Superintendent Casey O’Brien asked the board to look the changes over and bring any questions to the next meeting.
“For personnel, these are significant changes,” he said.
According to the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA), House Bill 2011 “incorporates a number of changes that will collectively have a sweeping impact on public education and educators in the state.”
Most notably, tenure or seniority will not matter when districts are rehiring or laying off.
Also, the school board no longer has a time frame during which it can lower salaries or lay off teachers.
“The statutes now allow for some or all teachers to be notified of a general salary reduction at any time,” the ASBA said.
Additionally, the old May 15 deadline for imposing a general salary reduction is gone, along with “the reduction-in-force provision that granted to teachers a three-year preferred right to reappointment in the order of original employment.”
Now districts do not have to tell teachers who have been with the district for less than three years if they will be rehired for the next school year by a certain date. This could leave some teachers wondering if they have a job next year well into the summer.
In addition, the PUSD has not yet said when it will now make contract offers.
Tenured teachers facing dismissal for poor performance now have 60 school days to improve where they used to have 85.
PUSD President Rory Huff said he had not yet looked over the changes in detail so could not comment. O’Brien did not return a call for comment as of press time.
The Arizona Education Association, however, filed a lawsuit with the Arizona Supreme Court against Gov. Jan Brewer and the state legislature saying the changes to teacher contracts are unconstitutional.
“These policies represent a complete abandonment of legislative leadership,” said John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association.
“The special session was called to address Arizona’s budget deficit; instead, the legislature mysteriously determined that removing contract security and allowing salary reductions for career educators was a more appropriate focus.”
Also at the meeting, the board approved installing $17,000 worth of carpet at the new Payson Center for Success, which formerly was the district office.
O’Brien said after demolition, the carpet was in poor condition and could not be patched.