Date of Award
Education Specialist (EdS)
Donald W. Smitley
The purpose of this study was to analyze the factors which led to a reduction in force and the procedures which were used in reducing certified personnel by 14% in the Roxana Community Unit School District #1 in 1976. The school board had used a RIF policy with which it was pleased, but which had made teachers unhappy. Was this just a natural reaction from any teacher organization or were the board and administration inadequately prepared for the major decisions made, when compared to the provisions and preparations made by other school boards across the state of Illinois? This question was the focal point for the analysis of RIF policies of seventy selected school districts in Illinois. An equitable RIF policy was also developed to terminate tenured faculty so as to do the least possible harm to the educational program and to make it possible to retain key faculty members regardless of their length of tenure. The role and responsibilities of the principal during RIF were also outlined in the study.
Letters requesting information on RIF policies were mailed to one hundred Illinois school districts with a minimum of twelve letters sent to each of the eight educational administrative districts of the Illinois Office of Education. Each of the sampled districts had to meet the following criteria: (1) each had a minimum of fifty teachers employed and 1,500 students in attendance, (2) the faculties were organized and affiliated with the I.E.A. or the I.F.T., and (3) the teachers' organization annually negotiated one or more items with their school board.
Major findings of the research included the following:
- Collectively, the factors of reduced enrollment, financial support, low faculty turnover, and changes in student course and program preferences created a need for reduction in force in the Roxana district in 1976.
- Many districts in Illinois (41.4%) were unprepared for staff reductions, relying solely on those procedures required by Sections 24-11 and 24-12 of the School Code. Using only the School Code as district policy may create staff morale problems and may make it necessary to reemploy a teacher whose performance is less than satisfactory.
- Tenured teachers are not going to be satisfied if all are given equal status, disregarding length of service and hours of education when reducing staff. Writing into RIF policies provisions for education and service are reasonable requests as indicated by 87.8% of the districts which had RIF policies.
- Teachers want to know where they stand in regard to other faculty members being able to "bump" them. Established seniority rights at grade and/or department levels were considered legitimate components of RIF policies by 94.4% of the districts surveyed.
- So that the best teachers may be retained by a district undergoing RIF, 60.9% of the districts with RIF policies allowed documented supervisory and evaluation reports to be used as supplementary criteria in staff reductions.
- The process of reducing staff due to RIF and of dismissing incompetent teachers should be two separate projects.
- 65.8% of the sampled districts had negotiated a teacher recall policy longer than the one year required by school law.
Major conclusions of the study included the following:
- An analysis of statistics on national and state birth rates make it evident that many school districts will be confronted with reducing staff.
- RIF may never be an easy task, but it can be made workable.
- The best advice coming from educational consultants and legal advisors is to have a RIF policy before it is actually needed.
- Administrators must learn new skills in the area of decline management. This entails understanding declining resource budgeting, developing expertise in time-phased scheduling techniques as a way to preserve programs, and becoming aware of the possible curricular redesigns for fewer students. They must also develop a talent for predicting enrollment and staff needs in their system over a period of years.
- If a school district is not overstaffed, reductions in capital outlay and building programs should be made before reducing staff. This helps improve faculty morale with the board and administration seen as individuals trying to reduce spending to save vital teaching staff.
- Early retirement should be encouraged with higher pay increments over a possible two-year period to raise retirement benefits of potential retirees.
- If staff reductions must be made, it is paramount that the administrator communicate openly with his staff. It is his duty to see that personalities and individuals are not prime targets and that all proposals by grade-level or departmental representatives are evaluated as objectively as possible. All concerned parties must have an opportunity to voice their feelings.
- The administrator's position on staff reductions and the board's intentions of standing firm on a fair policy must be made clear to the employees and the community.
- Determining which staff members will be reduced must be done in a manner which is not capricious or arbitrary. The first guideline for staff reductions is in Chapter 122, Section 24-12 of the School Code. If a board has not negotiated away too much, the district should be able to deal decisively with reductions of tenured teachers. The best evaluational system entails subjective applications of objective measures. To retain the most qualified and dedicated staff while letting the least effective teachers go, the Three F Test should be used. This is a test that, with adjustments to meet local circumstances, can be used in any school district where proper records will show that the teachers retained are firm, friendly, and fair. However, an overwhelming number of Illinois districts with RIF policies has negotiated an entirely different practice for releasing tenured teachers using the highly objective method of teacher seniority as the major criterion.
- During RIF procedures, the reputations of individual teachers must remain intact.
- The board and administration are morally obligated to help terminated staff obtain other employment.
Conner, Charles D., "Reduction in Force: An Analysis of Procedures Used in the Roxana Community Unit School District #1 and Other School Districts in Illinois" (1978). Masters Theses. 3207.
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