News

‘Orderly Termination Act’ Changes Considered

9/16/2011

Plans being considered by the Utah State Board of Education would eliminate the Utah Orderly School Termination Procedures Act. It would move school personnel policy from statute to individual school district board discretion and may make educators ‘at-will’ employees after a specified contract term.

While the Board did not approve draft legislation submitted for consideration on behalf of Supt. Larry Shumway, it did approve the draft’s “concepts.” The proposal was one item discussed when the Board considered proposed legislation and budget recommendations for the 2010 Legislative Session during its Sept. 9 meeting.

Under terms of the proposed legislation, individual school boards would be required to establish employment policies and procedures, which “may be subject to negotiation with employees or their associations as determined by each board.” Local school boards could establish employment contract terms up to one year for a provisional educator and up to five years for a career educator. It would allow for no “expectation of continued employment beyond the contract terms.” A ten-year “opt-out clause” is provided for employees who are "career employees" under current statutory provisions.

UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh sent a letter to members of the State Board of Education on Sept. 7 outlining several teacher concerns with the proposal, including:

  • It was created “without input from teachers and does not embrace a spirit of collaboration or express respect for the amazing educators in our state;”
  • It forces all employees into “at will” status at the end of each specified contract term;
  • It allows for “subjective dismissals based upon no data;”
  • It makes no reference to any evaluation standards (such as those currently being developed by USOE in collaboration with teachers); and
  • While it may “appease a political agenda,” there is no research to suggest it will improve student instruction.

Many educators also contacted State Board members expressing similar concerns.

According to the official meeting summary, the Board “will continue to work with education partners as it fleshes out some of the concepts in the plan and will seek out legislators interested in working with the Board in enacting these changes in law after the general session begins in January.”

“Political ideologies and rhetoric have left teachers feeling demoralized, disrespected and devalued. We would expect this from those with political agendas, but have concerns when those within the education community make proposals that appear more politically motivated rather than based on sound education practice,” Gallagher-Fishbaugh wrote to Board members.

“We have appreciated the collaboration between the USOE and the teachers in developing administrator and teacher standards. This work is a great example of what can result when policymakers and administrators reach out to teachers and other stakeholders. These types of reforms will only work when educators are a part of their design and implementation. They will not work when they are created in a vacuum and then thrust upon the teachers.”

In meeting between legislative leaders from the Education Committee and district superintendents and business administrators on Sept. 13, superintendents from Salt Lake, Granite and Logan expressed concern about the Orderly Termination Act proposal not being tied to a quality evaluation. The meeting ended with legislative leaders agreeing to meet with the UEA and other stakeholders to get input on any proposed legislation. The legislation’s expected sponsor stated his desire to work collaboratively with the Association in drafting the final proposal.

“Throughout the country we are witnessing courageous Superintendents and School Boards standing up for education reforms that are research-based and collaboratively developed,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “Please know that the UEA and our teachers stand ready, as partners, to work together on reforms that will improve education for every Utah student.”

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