Temporary placements given to 7 displaced Roaring Fork School District teachers
About half of the roughly two dozen Roaring Fork Schools teachers who found themselves without jobs at the end of last school year due to student enrollment shifts and declines have found new positions with the district.
Another seven teachers who were displaced but guaranteed one more year of employment in some capacity due to having been with the district for at least three years were given temporary assignments for this year, according to the school district’s human resources director, Nikki Jost.
Meanwhile, seven of the 25 teachers placed in the priority hiring pool that was created after the situation became known last spring have been hired in other schools.
Another has retired and one is seeking other options outside of education or going back to school, Jost reported to the district school board Wednesday.
The seven displaced teachers who were given temp positions are still eligible to apply for any regular teaching position that might come open during the upcoming school year that begins Sept. 5, she said.
“However, three of those teachers plan to retire at the end of the 2017-18 school year,” Jost said.
Others have indicated an interest in applying for open positions as they become available, even if that includes retraining in another content area for which they may not currently be certified to teach, she added.
“My goal, and the goal of the [teachers] association, is to support them and make sure they land on their feet,” Jost said.
The situation arose in part with the scheduled opening of the new Riverview School, which will serve students in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade in the area immediately south of Glenwood Springs along the Colorado 82 corridor.
That resulted in a shift of students away from Glenwood’s Sopris Elementary School and Glenwood Middle School. The district also experienced unexpected declines in enrollment at Carbondale Middle School and Crystal River Elementary, also located in Carbondale.
Parents and many teachers were taken aback when they were advised that they would not be guaranteed positions at the new school, due to a combination of state “mutual consent” law and district policy regarding displaced teachers.
State law provides that teachers cannot simply be reassigned from one school to another without consent by both the employee and the principal of the school.
The district did agree to put all of the displaced teachers, those with three or more consecutive years in the district, as well as the newer teachers who were still on probationary status, into a priority hiring pool for the new Riverview positions and any others that came open in the district.
Even then, though, teachers were advised they would be guaranteed an interview, but not an automatic rehire.
As of the middle of last week, the district still had five open teaching positions, including one each at Riverview, Sopris Elementary and Basalt Middle. Basalt High School also still had 1.5 positions yet to fill, Jost reported.
“We know this has been very emotional for people, and we are trying to be flexible,” Rob Stein, superintendent of Roaring Fork Schools, said at the meeting. “We can’t continue to carry those teachers who have a content focus that we no longer need.”
Jost said the district, in conjunction with the Roaring Fork Community Education Association, still plans to review its displaced teacher policy in the coming months and come up with some revisions to avoid a similar situation in the future.
Meanwhile, the school board Wednesday also acted in accordance with a new state law to declare a “critical shortage” of certain positions, should such a shortage occur midyear when a replacement would be needed immediately.
A change in state law this year allows school districts to hire teachers, bus drivers and food service workers who have retired under Colorado’s Public Employees’ Retirement Association.
Normally, those collecting retirement benefits are limited for rehiring purposes to only 110-140 days during a school year. The new law allows retirees to be hired back on a full-time basis when a shortage has been declared, Jost explained.
Though not an issue for Roaring Fork Schools to start the new year, she said it can come into play in the middle of the school year whenever there’s an unexpected vacancy. In that case, it’s best to bring in someone who has experience and can step into a position immediately, Jost said.