This was the game plan all along, of course:
Still lacking sufficient funds to open fully staffed schools on Sept. 9, Superintendent William Hite will ask the School Reform Commission to suspend parts of the state school code at a special meeting Thursday.
Many of the changes involve provisions governing labor practices. The District is seeking to bypass seniority rules as it restores positions and calls back laid-off workers. It also wants the ability to put at least a temporary halt on automatic pay increases based on longevity — called “steps”– for professional staff.
“We are in an untenable position,” said Hite in an interview Wednesday afternoon. The requested changes, he said, will give the District more flexibility “to grapple with a budget that does not adequately support schools.”
Other requested changes would allow the District to hire licensed nurses who are not specifically certified as school nurses. Hite said that no current school nurses would be displaced, but that vacancies could be filled with nurses who would not be paid as much.
Hite also wants the SRC to suspend a requirement about “independent school employees” so that teachers at the District’s new virtual school would not have to be part of the collective bargaining unit.
The District is currently in negotiations with both its teacher and principal bargaining units, whose contracts expire on Aug.31. Hite repeated several times that seeking these code changes will give him more tools to make ends meet and staff schools adequately, and are not related to the contract talks.
But one byproduct is that he could achieve some goals the District is seeking in the negotiations through this means, including a weakening of seniority and elimination of automatic raises based on longevity.
“Professional employees get salary increases, required purely on the fact that they are here another year,” Hite said. “This would allow the District to say, OK, we’re not giving increases that way, instead we’re giving increases based on performance.