Roaring Fork Schools can’t close hiring pool for Riverview
School principals cannot be required to hire teachers who are being displaced or dismissed due to student enrollment shifts or drops, according to a legal opinion provided to the Roaring Fork School District.
The opinion was sought in relation to the expected shift in enrollment away from two Glenwood Springs schools to the new Riverview elementary and middle school.
While that means the district cannot close the hiring pool for the 18 remaining teaching positions at Riverview to in-district applicants, district officials say they remain committed to giving those teachers every chance to land those or any other positions that come open for next year.
The district sought a legal opinion from attorney M. Brent Case when the question arose at a school board meeting two weeks ago about closing the process to outside applicants until all of the teachers displaced or nonrenewed due to the latest enrollment projections for next school year who want to remain in the district find new positions.
Doing so would violate the mutual consent provision of Colorado’s SB-191, which prohibits school districts from placing teachers in new positions against the will of teachers or school administrators, Case wrote in a March 7 letter to the Roaring Fork District board.
The law “makes it clear that the practice of permanently placing a teacher in a school without the consent of its principal is not permitted,” he wrote. “A rule requiring principals to offer mutual consent assignments to applicants within any limited group, including the priority hiring pool, may force the principal to accept an applicant to whom they may not truly consent.”
Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein reiterated at the Wednesday night school board meeting in Glenwood that the district is giving the affected teachers first shot at interviewing for positions at Riverview and elsewhere in the district, if they choose to seek those positions.
That’s true not only for the nonprobationary teachers who are in the priority hiring pool, per the district’s teacher displacement policy, but also for probationary teachers (those in their first three years with the district) who received nonrenewal notices as a result of the new school opening.
The district recently notified 11 staff members that they were to be displaced, meaning the district is required to keep them on the payroll for at least another year in some capacity. Another 10 probationary staff members were dismissed without any guarantee of future employment.
Most of the 21 displaced and nonrenewed teachers and staff were a result of the expected enrollment shifts away from Sopris Elementary and Glenwood Springs Middle schools to the new Riverview School. However, some were due to a projected enrollment drop at Carbondale’s Crystal River Elementary School.
Stein advised the school board Wednesday that, in addition to the 18 remaining positions at Riverview that still need to be hired, positions have been opening up at other district schools due to planned resignations and retirements after this school year.
Last week, Stein joined Roaring Fork Community Education Association president and district teacher Rhonda Tatham in issuing a statement saying they would work together to support the impacted teachers in finding new employment.
The situation prompted dozens of teachers and parents to appear before the school board two weeks ago, asking that the district do more to protect teachers being displaced or nonrenewed. The discussion also prompted the district, through its Interest-Based Bargaining Committee, to review the teacher displacement policy to see if there’s a better way to protect teachers that are displaced due to intended enrollment shifts caused by the opening of a new school.
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