"Force Place" or a Cut of $3 Million: Dallas ISD Teachers, the Choice, Apparently, Is Yours

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We told you yesterday that the Dallas Independent School District is considering offering "excess" Chapter 21 employees -- teachers, principals, librarians, counselors -- a pile of cash worth $3 million to retire. After last night's called board meeting, it became clear that while that's probably what trustees will ultimately vote to do Thursday night, it's not without risk for those employees, the school staff and the trustees themselves. And no matter how many of the 209 employees who have been identified as excess actually take the buyout, this is all just a prelude to another conversation we'll be having in the spring, when another 400 people will have to be let go.

According to Steve Korby, the executive director of financial services at DISD, and district chief of staff Claudia Rodriguez, there are currently 209 excess Chapter 21 employees, and only 132 vacant positions across the district. They presented a few options to deal with that gap, but recommended Option 1: Let those 209 folks know right away they're being "non-renewed," but offer a "resignation incentive of salary continuation" through January 2012, if they choose to step aside now. That means they'll get three months of pay without having to come to work.

The people who don't take the buyout will be force-placed into some of those vacant positions, while the rest will be put into the substitute pool. The cost will be $4.3 million, which is not in the budget and will have to come out of emergency reserves.

"I hate that term 'force place,'" DISD board president Lew Blackburn remarked at one point early on. He sees the option as a way for the excess employees to prove their worth at the schools where they're assigned. "It's incumbent upon the teacher to perform very well," he said, "... and to impress upon the principal that you are valuable to that campus. Which I think teachers should do every day."

But three principals -- Jolee Healey from Hexter Elementary, Marlon Brooks from Wilmer-Hutchens High School and John Parker from Franklin Middle School -- made it clear that while they would accept the force-placed employees into their vacant spots, they probably wouldn't end up hiring them for the long haul. All three said that although they had vacant positions, they were already "aggressively" interviewing other candidates.

Healey acknowledged that while it was possible that a force-placed employee could end up "being a wonderful asset to our team," she would ultimately choose a permanent teacher (or counselor or librarian) based on what was best for the students. "That's what needs to be the priority," she said, "What's best for the kids, not what's comfortable for adults." Later, she added that in her 12 years as an administrator, she's seen "few forced placement situations that have worked out well."

District 1 trustee Edwin Flores added that in his experience as a parent, "I don't want my kids in front of a teacher who's been force placed." He likened it to "sending in a wild card." Parker agreed, saying that the teachers he'd had force-placed in the past had "ended up being lower performers in a critical area," the math department.

"It's an uphill battle," Healey said. "It requires a lot of effort, although there are probably a few success stories." It was only a "palatable" option, she said, because the principals have the opportunity to not renew those employees without being "responsible for documenting" why, or recommending the non-renewed teacher elsewhere

And even those employees who are force-placed and do well aren't necessarily immune to the next round of layoffs. Blackburn reminded the trustees, and the audience, that the $37 million in budget cuts that are happening next year will result in the at least 400 more employees being let go. It was the only real way to save that kind of money, he said. "We can only turn off the lights so many times." When asked by District 3 trustee Bruce Parrott if all of those layoffs would be teachers, Blackburn responded only, "I hope not."

Adam Medrano, the trustee from District 8, wasn't happy with the way the excess employees were being discussed. "I don't believe they're getting a chance," he said. "The board has already labeled them as the worst of the worst. ... I don't think they'll get a fair shake." There were loud murmurs of agreement from the audience.

Carla Ranger, the recently un-resigned trustee from District 6, also objected to the idea that "these teachers are ineffective." Of the 209 excess employees, only 23 had a poor evaluation ("below expectations," in DISD speak), 48 had Course Evaluations Instruments (CEIs, another standard of measurement) below 50, and just six had low scores in both. Ranger also took exception to fellow trustee Nancy Bingham, who criticized the employees who chose not to attend the three job fairs DISD has held for excess employees. "Fifth percent didn't even bother to make it to a  job fair," Bingham said, to grumbling from the crowd.

"There are several factors and reason why people didn't participate" in the job fairs, Ranger responded, a little icily. "It wasn't just that they didn't want to go or chose not to." (And as Leslie wrote about over the summer, some teachers who did go thought the whole thing was a waste of time and gas.)

After the meeting, we spoke to Angela Davis, president of the National Education Association's local chapter. She's glad, she said, that the board is offering some kind of resignation incentive, but agreed with Medrano that the force-placed employees were obviously not going to get a fair shake at their new schools.

"We're going to advise our members to take the resignation," she said. "Because otherwise they're not going to have a job at the end of the year."

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8 comments
$200,000 Billionaire
$200,000 Billionaire

I say give ALL 209 pink slips with the 3 month severance package. As Mr. Macnaughton states below 3.4 mill to separate is much better than 12.5 mill to keep. Then allow the terminated individuals that are interested an opportunity to re-interview for the 132 open positions.  In addition, there are several mid-level supervisors, directors and yahoos at DISD that should be summarily RIF'd as well. DISD with its crony trustee system is a bloated byzantine mess. No more tax money for this poor performing district. Folks, the job market is tough no matter what profession you are in right now and the extended duration of this economic depression we are in is a topic for another discussion. The responsiblity of the DISD is to provide a better than average education to children (with legalized citizenship) of Dallas residents. Not a jobs/work program for tenured teachers or long time DISD freinds & family. The sooner DISD starts performing like a well run "Non-profit" business and graduating an exceptionally high percentage of children that have the skills to compete in college or the workplace the better.

10 years ago we were having the same complaints about the pitiful state the DISD was in and it's only gotten marginally better since then. I'm sick & tired of living in Dallas and having to send my children to private school.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

11XRAY-- Davis advised her members correctly. If they take the buyout, they can honestly say they resigned voluntarily during a RIF. If they choose to wait it out, hoping to impress their new boss that they can do the job--IF the new principal hasn't already found anyone to take the job, and they get another bad PDAS (eval) or just get the death knell of "non-renewed," then it will be very hard for them to find a job in another district. Just the way they phrase your leaving can mean the difference between a new job or not. The risk may be too great for some, and with XMAS coming, some can find temp work over the holidays to stretch the budget. They had 3 principals there, but none of them were from low-performing schools. Not once was it brought up to let go of the contract with Teach for America. The  premise behind that group is that they fill unfilled jobs, shortage areas. Not true in this case, so why are they still here, when they will be GONE when their term is up, yet other teachers, PROFESSIONAL teachers, are being let go? There are some jewels in the pile of 209, and some rocks. Even though many classes are still over capacity on some campuses, they are cutting staff overall. It is what it is. To think that all of these people are not worthy of a second chance is simply wrong. However, Bingham, as usual, was rude and dismissive of people in the profession she once had. She bemoaned the fact that many did not come to the job fairs. Well, one fair was given only 24 hours notice, and some teachers were ON VACATION when cuts were made this summer. They returned only to find they were no longer at their own campus. Also, if you are a French teacher, and they are only looking for Math and Bi-lingual (Span-Eng), why bother?

One thing, though. The teachers screwed up. 209 of them, not just a handful, should have been there to look them in the eye, to talk to them before or after the meeting. After 13 years in DISD, 12 as an activist, I am still disheartened to see teachers not stand up and fight for their own careers. Maybe it is indicative or related that they are beaten down, but I would be there to have them look me in the eye and tell me I am not good enough to be kept....

StopDISD.org
StopDISD.org

Despite the fact that DISD displays at its headquarters a picture that reads “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," our taxpaying citizens have been victimized and intimidated by DISD’s tactics.  We are very disappointed and concerned to learn that DISD organized a rally against the Jubilee park residents opposing DISD's parking lot and geo-thermal fields in-between homes plan.  The lives and homes of the residents are now being threatened because DISD's actions have stirred up hatred and hostility amongst the neighborhood  The families of Jubilee Park have faced many changes in the last year, such as the loss of their historic building, the threat of re-zoning, a looming threat over their property rights, and the loss of living peacefully as homeowners.  They also face a 114 space parking lot that violates city code and unfamiliar geo-thermal fields in-between their homes and in their backyards.  And now they face fears and threats not only from DISD but from their fellow neighbors. DISD is blaming the homeowners for DISD’s failure to present an acceptable plan to the taxpaying citizens of Dallas.  Criticizing the homeowners of Jubilee Park for fighting for their property rights is not the right way for DISD to make its case.  And inflaming anger and hatred towards homeowners -- such as what happened in the rally -- has simply made a difficult situation far more dangerous for the remaining residents. The residents are a dedicated, organized community, and they support DISD’s efforts to bring the best education to the students attending O.M. Roberts.  If they would have been given a chance, they would have tirelessly worked with DISD on a solution.  Unfortunately, DISD continues to ignore their voice and it seems they will never give them the opportunity to discuss what is best for the community that IS affected by these plans.   In November of 2010, The Dallas school board passed an anti-bullying policy for students, and we truly believe that actions reflect leadership.  So we ask you, how can this policy be enforced when our DISD leaders continue to break their own rules? Contact your Elected officials and let them know how you feel. Contact your Elected officials and let them know how you feel. Visit www.StopDISD.org to learn more Check out new videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... In November of 2010, The Dallas school board passed an anti-bullying policy for students, and we truly believe that actions reflect leadership.  So we ask you, how can this policy be enforced when our DISD leaders continue to break their own rules? Contact your Elected officials and let them know how you feel. Contact your Elected officials and let them know how you feel. Visit www.StopDISD.org to learn more Check out new videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...In November of 2010, The Dallas school board passed an anti-bullying policy for students, and we truly believe that actions reflect leadership.  So we ask you, how can this policy be enforced when our DISD leaders continue to break their own rules? Contact your Elected officials and let them know how you feel. Contact your Elected officials and let them know how you feel. Visit www.StopDISD.org to learn more Check out new videos http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

11xray
11xray

Why would anyone take a few months of pay as an incentive to resign when they are under contract for the remainder of the school year? The chances of finding a teaching job in another district or a private school in January are very slim. The chances of finding a teaching job next summer, while still not great, are much better.

What Angela Davis said makes no sense. If they take the resignation incentive "they're not going to have a job at the end of the year" either.

Dallasschmenclub
Dallasschmenclub

 The force-placed employees were obviously not going to get a fair shake at their new schools.Most are loyal employees that DISD knows, look at years with DISD,any over 3 years are good and most likley very good. Alot of administrators not supporting employees. THE FAT IN THE DISTRICT IS IN THE LAYERS OF OVER PAID Administrators and half baked programs.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

The changes the legislature made that took effect October 1 legally equate (or nearly so) a RIF with a contract non-renewal.  But the TEA requires school districts to follow its guidelines when a financial exigency is declared in order to RIF employees.  Apparently the TEA hasn't issued the guidelines yet....so no RIF for now...and probably not in January.  The Budget Commission was given the school utilization information last week  http://bit.ly/r1TgN3 in advance of a discussion about the proposed closing of schools.  DISD and the Budget Commission have to find a minimum of another $30M to cut. Perhaps $15M or $16M can come from operations but that leaves us $14M short in the best case (given no financial relief from the state). My best guess, and the numbers will surely change, a RIF in May 2012 of 700 or so: 200 in the reassignment pool, 400 from closed schools and 100 others. In any event, the 209 employees in the reassignment pool cost the district $12.5M so providing an incentive to resign coupled with force-placing the rest is probably the best that can be done today.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

To resign and reapply means they would have to be refingerprinted, rechecked--all that costs money and time. No sense in firing someone on Monday, only to hire them back on Thursday.

The myth of "tenure" is getting old to bust. PLEASE READ THIS, OKAY? THERE IS NO TENURE IN DISD. There is no such thing as tenure in a right-to-work state. Period, end of story. We are not just job-holders, we are professionals. Maybe if you invested some time in the schools, instead of complaining about "having" to send your kids to private school, we would have better schools. The problem in DISD is not just the teachers-- not even hardly. It is the fact that DISD has a habit of not training their admin personnel on laws, leadership or common sense. They train them to be the enemy of the teacher, not their advocate and ally. Too many get their jobs because of whom they know, who they were in a sorority with (red or pink & green), where they go to church, etc... You want it better? Then help us end cronyism, fraud of contractors, etc....

BrownVBoard
BrownVBoard

What? Fair Shake? Forced placement has been how school districts keep employees on the payroll - whether they're ineffective or not. It's damn near impossible to get fired once hired. THAT's the problem! This is the first time that DISD has tried to non-renew instead of force-place...all the pieces weren't in place this year but next year I expect that a teacher in the reassignment pool who isn't selected will be out of a job...as it should be!

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