District Goes With Teacher Contract Changes

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In order to comply with state law, the Payson Unified School District adopted new governing board policies Monday night that eliminate contract security and allow for teacher salary reductions at anytime.

While some of the changes in House Bill 2011 are inconsequential, such as a one line change in wording, others are “fairly transformational,” said Superintendent Casey O’Brien pointing to tenure changes.

“These changes are fairly significant,” he said.

Most notably, House Bill 2011, passed without public debate during an emergency budget session, eliminates tenure and seniority considerations when the district is rehiring or firing.

Also gone are timelines when the school board can lower salaries or lay off teachers, and the May 15 deadline for imposing a general salary reduction is gone as well. Additionally, the district no longer has to inform 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, and tenured teachers facing dismissal for poor performance now have 60 school days to shape up where they used to have 85.

O’Brien explained to the school board that House Bill 2011 was passed as an attachment to the state budget, even though it had nothing to do with the budget. The new guidelines went into effect Nov. 24 and must be adopted by all school districts to remain in compliance.

While the PUSD district will not fight the changes, the Arizona Education Association is. The AEA filed a lawsuit with the Arizona Supreme Court against Gov. Jan Brewer and the state legislature, saying the modification to teacher contracts are unconstitutional.

“It is yet to be seen if that case will be heard by the Supreme Court,” O'Brien said. “We will have to wait to see what happens with the lawsuit.”

Also at the meeting, Arcadis construction manager Henry Halikowski said the schematic design for the new, 12,000-square-foot vocational building at Payson High School is complete. While a budget for the project has not been nailed down, it is estimated to cost approximately $1.2 million.

The new building is expected to be completed in Oct. 2010 and will include space for students to learn wood and metal skills and allow room for more projects and experimentation.

O’Brien also clarified a graph he presented at the last school board meeting.

While explaining the 10 percent budget override, O’Brien said the average homeowner can expect to see a $12 increase in their taxes, assuming an average assessed value of a Payson home is $116,000.

However, O’Brien later learned the average assessed value for a home is actually $191,000; therefore the rate is $21 per homeowner. He said that if your house is worth $116,000 you would still pay $12.

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