Denton ISD to notify 102 of layoffs

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The Denton school board began the termination process for 102 district employees Tuesday after the deadline passed for a voluntary resignation program.

Human resources staff is expected to prepare the notifications today, and supervisors must notify those employees by Friday, 45 days before the last school day. CRITERIA

The following criteria, in order, were considered in Tuesday's determination of staff reductions in the Denton school district:

• 1. Contract type• 2. Highly qualified status for current or projected assignment(s)• 3. Full certification for current or projected assignment(s)• 4. Hire date for position level (seniority; length of service in the district)• 5. Total education experience, as accepted by Texas Education Agency standards • 6. Employment recommendation date• 7. Professional background - professional education and work experience related to current or projected assignment(s)*High school reductions will be content-specific and based upon student enrollment by program. Each reduction will be based upon the above criteria in each discipline or program.

SOURCE: Denton Independent School District

Board members met for about an hour in closed session before they unanimously approved sending notices to probationary contract employees of the district's intention to terminate them at the end of the school year because of budget implications, with the stipulation they would be eligible to be rehired.

The board also unanimously approved routine procedures to send notifications of its intent to terminate probationary contract employees for not meeting certification requirements and for other grounds, and to send notifications of intent to not renew term contract employees, all at the end of the school year.

Approval was also given to renew an unspecified number of teacher, administrator and support staff contracts.

Because of eligible employees who applied for the district's early resignation incentive, as well as other resignations, retirements, leaves of absence and position vacancies, the district said it was able to save 130 positions that would have been bound for layoffs.

Board President Jim Alexander said he believes the process for planning next year's budget has worked.

"I'm pleased that the early indicators here are that the numbers of termination will be lower than we thought they first might be," he said. "The incentive program has worked reasonably well, and that helps to reduce some of the pain associated with this process.

"The district will be working very hard to find ways to rehire as many of these individuals that receive termination notices as possible."

Superintendent Ray Braswell said Tuesday's action was just a first step.

"We took the action we needed tonight to be in compliance with the 45-day requirement," Braswell said. "That doesn't mean we're anywhere near done. Much will change in the next three weeks. We did tonight what we were required to do, but we're still working at it."

Once employees receive their notifications, depending on the type of contract they hold, they may have some rights to appeal, said Dennis Stephens, the district's executive director of human resources. All employees who receive one of the notices will also get a copy of district policy outlining their rights, he said.

Employees on a probationary contract who receive a notice with intent to terminate them may file a grievance under district policy within 15 days of the notice. Term contract employees who receive notification of intent to terminate their contract have 15 days to ask for a hearing appealing the notice.

The layoffs are the first phase in the district's attempt to absorb state funding cuts expected next school year.

Figures presented by Braswell on Tuesday show that under recommendations adopted by the House Appropriations Committee last week, funding to the Foundation School Program could increase by $2 billion, contingent on legislation to use state Rainy Day Funds for the current biennium budget. That would lower the public education shortfall to $7 billion.

"We're still in some of the bad scenarios here of the $25 million reduction," Braswell said.

He said that funding levels recommended by the Senate subcommittee last week included a plan to reduce the original cut of $9.3 billion in state-per-pupil aid included in Senate Bill 1 by $5.6 billion, still leaving a gap of about $3.7 billion to maintain student services and account for student growth.

"This is getting us into the category where we're currently planning," Braswell said. "This still means our Level 1 reductions are necessary."

In recent months, district leaders have presented a phase one in options for next year's budget believed to reduce expenditures and absorb potential state funding cuts of more than 8 percent, or nearly $16.3 million.

District officials have said state funding accounts for 42 percent of the district's operating budget.

Staff salaries make up more than 85 percent of the district's overall budget. Of that, Braswell said, instructional staff account for nearly 70 percent. The district employs more than 3,200 people.

If the district pursues making additional staff cuts beyond this week, its leaders may have to declare financial exigency, a fiscal emergency that would allow Denton to reduce personnel expenses, in this case relating to funding cuts, Braswell said.

Board members also learned Tuesday that 64 district employees applied and were deemed eligible for the early resignation incentive, offered to 232 employees. In exchange for their early resignation, the incentive program gives 15 percent of an employee's base salary, up to a maximum of $10,000, paid out from district reserves on or before their final paycheck.

Trustees thanked those employees for sacrificing their positions to save the jobs of their colleagues.

"They're certainly our heroes," trustee Glenna Harris said.

The board is slated to meet April 14 to finalize terminations that members approved notifications of intent for on Tuesday.

Braswell said the number of employees affected could very well be reduced, depending on any additional employee resignations the district receives or any improved changes in state funding for public education.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876. Her e-mail address is btabor@dentonrc.com .


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