When will contracts for next year be issued?
By law, the district must notify individuals by May 15th. As that falls on a Sunday this year, the district must notify employees by Friday May 13th. It is our understanding that the district does intend to wait until May 13th to issue the contracts.
As the Board is reviewing files, I received a RICE notice and was notified that I can be present when the Board reviews my file. Should I attend?
By law, the HR department is required to provide you with 48 hour+ written notice when you are to be discussed. As these are unprecedented times, the HR department notified individuals by email (which will not establish a future practice). Each person has the right to be present if/when any BOE member views a file. It is our understanding that the BOE is attempting to ensure they are fully aware of all contents before they make a decision. You have every right to be there but it does not appear essential that you attend at this time. If a BOE member were to have an objection to something and your name to be pulled, you would have to be notified and given an opportunity for a hearing before the full Board.
What should I do when I receive my contract for next year?
As always, you should review the step and educational placement to check for accuracy. If there are any questions/problems/concerns, let your building Representative know. Building Representatives should then compile a list of any concerns and meet with the building principal to discuss.
What is the next step for individuals who did receive a RIF notice?
Individuals should complete the form (printable version is available in an FAQ below) and fax it back to both numbers. It is our understanding that the district HR department is also asking that the same form be used when contacting them. The Association has also been assured that each person who received a RIF notice will have an individual meeting with HR.
Why is it so important for all members to check personnel files each year?
Unfortunately, times like this highlight the importance of checking your personnel file each year. All certifications, courses, and other documentation should be accurately reflected in your personnel file. By law, you must have seen anything which has been placed into your personnel file. To view your personnel file, contact the HR department and schedule an appointment. You are also allowed to copy all information in your personnel file.
What is the next step if I do not have employment for next year?
Be sure to contact the WEA for more information and visit the NJEA website for information as well. On the Pensions & Benefits section of the NJEA website there is information on unemployment benefits. As a RIF’ed employee, you are entitled to immediate unemployment benefits at the expiration of your current contract.
Besides checking all sources of information for accuracy, what should I be doing in an effort to ensure employment?
It is important to stay active. Decisions made by state or local politicians can directly affect the funding our schools receive. Therefore, keep a close eye on proposed bills or votes. Vote for those candidates that best support public education.
What types of RIF letters are there?
There are usually three types: One which is given to non-tenured staff members stating that an employment contract is not being offered at this time for next year, one which is given to a tenured staff member stating that they are being RIF’ed from the position they currently hold but that they will be placed in another position due to their seniority in other areas, and finally, one which is given to tenured employees stating that they are being RIF’ed and there is no area they currently hold seniority in.
How is seniority determined for non-tenured individuals?
There is no seniority for non-tenured individuals. Therefore, a first year employee could be given a contract while a third year might not be.
What happens to tenured employees who are RIF’ed and have no seniority in other areas?
Unfortunately, that individual would have no employment in the district for next year. However, by law, that individual must be given first opportunity at the position if there is ever an opening in the future (it does not matter how many years into the future).
When there was discussion of teaching position losses the number 29 was used at times. Why did so many more individuals receive RIF notices or non-renewal notices?
This is because when the district cuts in other areas, such as administration, many times those administrators have bumping rights in the district. As the district is still contemplating doing away with the supervisors of curriculum and instruction, a teaching spot must be held for most of those administrators until the BOE decides to keep some or create a new very similar category. Usually, not everyone who receives a RIF or non-renewal letter is let go. Many are asked back once the district makes final determination.
How soon will the district make those decisions?
We don’t know. That said, it is in the best interest of the district to do so as soon as possible so that the many talented individuals we currently employ do not seek jobs elsewhere.
If I did not receive a RIF of non-renewal letter does it mean I will not get one?
No. As before, the district has until the legal date of May 15th the inform employees of their employment status for next year.
How is seniority determined under various certificates?
Once an individual utilizes a certificate within the district he or she gains seniority in that area. Even if they move to teach in another area, he or she continues to accrue seniority the certificate they utilized before and the one they activate in the move. If a tenured teacher is RIF’ed and they have a certificate in another area that they have NEVER used, if there is a non-tenured individual in that area then the tenured individual DOES have bumping rights to that position.
What if I am not a full-time employee?
If you are a tenured employee but are not full time, you do still have seniority in the areas of certification you possess and have activated. You would have bumping rights over a less senior person who is a full time employee.
How is a Leave of Absence (LOA) factored into seniority?
If a staff member has taken a LOA (such as a maternity leave) the time away does not count towards seniority. A LOA dedicated to studies would count.
What if I have noticed an error in the information the district has in my personnel file?
All errors should be noted and sent to both the WEA and NJEA for review by an attorney. Any emails you send to the district should go to HR (email@example.com). You must also copy the Association (firstname.lastname@example.org) on that same email so everyone is informed of all communications.
Is the form available to complete and send to the WEA and NJEA?
Yes. You can (CLICK HERE) for a copy which can be printed faxed back to both numbers listed.
What is a RICE letter?
A RICE letter informs you that the BOE will be discussing your position in the district and affords you the right to have the discussion made public. The notification must be provided by the Board specific to a particular meeting and specific to the individual.
What is Reduction in Force (RIF)?
RIF notification occurs when a district needs to reduce the number of staff members it currently employs. This specificity is noted to show that there was no negative view of job performance but rather budgetary considerations. New employees must be notified first, followed by more senior members. If a member with seniority loses his or her position due to a RIF then, by law, if that position becomes available again in the future, it must be offered to that same individual first before another candidate is considered.
How is seniority determined?
Seniority is not established until an employee has worked for over three years. At that time, seniority is accrued based on certification. Teachers may have seniority in multiple areas depending on the certification he or she possesses and what they have previously taught. Support staff have seniority based specifically on length of employment.
Who has the seniority lists?
By law, the Board of Education must keep an active seniority list. Each year, central administration provides the Association with a current seniority list. We then work with members to ensure its accuracy with regard to those who are impacted.
Do administrators have seniority over teachers?
It depends. If the administrator was a teacher in the district first then they may have seniority over various other teachers. If the administrator came to this district and started as an administrator, then they would not have seniority over any teachers.
What is the Flexible Spending Program?
It is a program which allows you to pay for qualifying medical and/or dependent care expenses with pre-tax dollars. You can pledge up to $1,000 for medical and $5,000 for dependent care expenses. The “use it or lose it” rule applies, so pledge amounts must be considered carefully.
How many family illness days do staff members have per year?
Teachers are guaranteed two and get the third based on the fact that we currently have excellent attendance throughout the district. Office personnel are guaranteed three and receive the fourth based on the same excellent staff attendance data.
Can teachers opt to be paid over twelve months instead of ten?
Yes. Teachers need to notify the BOE in writing prior to the start of the next school year. The BOE then deducts 10% from each check and makes payments either once or in payments over the summer.
What is a Sick Day Bank?
It is a system run by the WEA which allows members to donate days to the bank and others to use them. It also saves the district money in that it is members’ days which are used. Anyone who donates days to the bank is eligible to request days from the bank. A committee reviews the request and grants the days. Donations are only permitted at specific times, which are clearly publicized by the Association.
What is the Family Leave Act?
It is a program that allows all New Jersey employees to take time off to care for the needs of a family member. Days off can be taken in blocks or individually. All employees receive a portion of their salary up to a maximum amount. It does not replace the State or Federal leave in place for the individual rather than family members.
WEA first Vice President Dennis Carroll speaking at the pension meeting.