Board Meeting 2/13/12

This meeting brought back memories of last February’s meeting and the rockslide which interrupted it. Also that day we finalized the short list of candidates for our Superintendent search.

This time we didn’t get interrupted by the lights going out! We had a full agenda including several executive session items. The most important one was declaring a “fiscal exigency” (opens PDF).

The courts have recognized two general categories that might give rise to a “justifiable decrease” in the number of teaching positions: fiscal exigency and program change. A fiscal exigency may occur any time a school district is unable to maintain staffing at existing levels for financial reasons. This may be due to a decrease in student enrollment, increased costs, or budgetary cuts. A program change refers to any elimination, curtailment, or reorganization of curriculum, or a reorganization or consolidation of schools. A program change may or may not be related to a fiscal exigency. Declining student enrollment across the entire school district is not required to justify the cancellation of teachers’ contracts. If enrollment in a particular program has declined, the board may justifiably eliminate teaching positions in that program.

It is the board’s role to determine when a fiscal exigency or need for program change exists. When the board makes this determination, the board’s decision is considered a legislative act. Ring v. Springfield Sch. Dist. RE-2, Case No. 90CV37 (Baca County Dist. Ct. 1992); Snyder v. City of Lakewood, 542 P.2d 371, 375-76 (discussing legislative v. judicial authority). Due to the constitutional separation of powers between the different branches of government, the board’s legislative acts are
subject to limited court review and may only be challenged on constitutional grounds for an arbitrary abuse of authority. Snyder, 542 P.2d at 375.

Accordingly, as long as there is a rational underlying basis for the board’s determination that a fiscal exigency exists or program change is necessary, the board’s determination will withstand a legal challenge that the determination was merely a pretext for the teacher’s dismissal.

This is in preparation for our having to fire some teachers. 😦 Our policy states that the Superintendent has 30 days to present a plan to the Board to reach our objectives. I was really surprised by the reaction of the teaching staff toward me. Suddenly none of them wanted to talk to me! Like anything they say will be used against them. We had managed to not have to actually fire anyone up to now; there were enough retirements to reduce staff “naturally”.

So this and other issues about layoffs were stressful. There were also a few stressful executive session items, as well.

Toward the end of the Executive Session, I excused myself to go potty and handed control over to my #2, Donna Nicholas-Griesel, the Vice-President. By the time I got back, the meeting was adjourned!

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