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Clark County schools need to revise teacher reassignment process

Updated February 27, 2018 - 2:30 pm

The process by which Clark County teachers are “surplussed” twice a year to align resources with student population must be revised to comply with the reorganization of the school district, according to an opinion from the state attorney general’s office.

The central question – posed by State Superintendent Steve Canavero – answered by the AG’s office was whether the Clark County School District had the ability to place an employee in a specific school under the reorganization, commonly called AB 469.

The reorganization, first passed by the Legislature in 2015 and reaffirmed in 2017, seeks to give more power to school principals and school communities. For principals, that includes control over employees in their schools.

Principals already have largely had control over staff. District officials would make sure candidates were qualified, but principals would make hiring offers.

How the process works

But that autonomy has not been absolute. Twice a year, the district undergoes a “surplus process.” If a school only had enough students to support three fourth-grade teachers but had four on staff, for instance, the fourth teacher would be surplussed. That teacher would then get the opportunity to pick an open job at a new school.

As a result, the principal in that scenario would not have final say in hiring that employee. That’s what needs to change, according to the attorney general’s opinion.

The surplus process is spelled out under the collective bargaining agreement between the school district and the local teacher’s union, the Clark County Education Association.

In fall 2016, 98 teachers went through the reassignment process. In spring 2017, 151 teachers moved schools. This fall, 122 teachers went through the process. The spring surplus has not yet been scheduled and is unclear how many teachers will be affected.

The surplus system isn’t the only way a principal may have an employee placed in their building by the school district, said Stephen Augspurger, head of the administrator’s union. Employees sometimes are placed in a school after returning from a leave of absence, support staff are often placed or replaced by a central office and sometimes employees are moved as a result of disciplinary matters.

Under the reorganization law, that can no longer be the case, he said.

“It’s really going to fundamentally change the way we assign employees to a building,” he said.

Changes included in contract talks

The opinion from Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s office, penned by Senior Deputy Attorney General Greg Ott, says “large school districts have no ability to bargain that authority away.” It states that any contract executed after the law was implemented that contained a provision that trumped principals’ hiring authority would be unenforceable.

Right now, the district and the unions are in the midst of negotiating a new contract. Those proceedings are not open to the public. Augspurger said his union is negotiating three separate changes in the administrator contract to address the law.

Local teacher’s union leader John Vellardita said adjustments to the surplus system likely won’t be too difficult, even though it could fundamentally change the way the process works.

“We’re committed to the successful implementation of 469,” he said. “We don’t see it as an issue that cannot be resolved.”

The school district officials said in a statement they were in receipt of the opinion and plan to address the issue in an implementation plan expected to be unveiled to the public by March 15.

The implementation plan is a joint effort between Clark Count and the state to work on some of the most-challenging pieces of the reorganization in an effort to bring the district fully in compliance with the law.

Contact Meghin Delaney at 702-383-0281 or mdelaney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @MeghinDelaney on Twitter.

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