But lawmakers have not yet figured out what the rules are
By Patricia Bogumil
Waterford Graded School District officials find themselves in a bit of a pickle, and they’re not alone.
Like WGSD, about half the school districts in Wisconsin have teachers whose collective bargaining agreement expired last June.
Wisconsin’s new “budget repair bill” requires WGSD and those other districts to now follow state law for teacher evaluations, layoffs and non-renewals.
But the state guidelines are still in the process of being created. And time is ticking.
State timeline for layoffs. State law calls for preliminary teacher layoff notices to go out by Feb. 28 and final notices by March 15.
“We hope not to have to lay anyone off,” said Chris Joch, the WGSD superintendent. “But we also have to be cautious and fiscally responsible.”
Important chunks of information that school districts need to prepare a new preliminary budget with staffing (and layoff) needs aren’t even available in February. These include projections for state aid, revenue and enrollment.
And a new element of surprise is now making the rounds in Madison.
“It’s an interesting situation in education right now,” Joch said.
Open enrollment may change. Senate Bill 2, if passed, will stretch the current three-week statewide open enrollment option – in which parents can request that a child be schooled outside their district – to three months, possibly beginning in February 2012, noted Joch.
If open enrollment switches to a three-month period in February 2012, the state would need to change its mandated Feb. 28/March 15 layoff notice dates.
An amendment attached to SB2 proposes to do just that.
“We’d like those dates moved later for lots of reasons and even a couple of months would be helpful,” commented Joch. Input received from some state legislators indicates that seems to be reasonable, he added.
In with the new. In past years, union seniority governed the issuing of teacher layoff notices. Under the new law, collective bargaining is now limited to wages-only.
“It gives much more discretion to administration and the school board,” said Joch.
With seniority mandates ousted, state officials are working to create a “teacher effectiveness model” that districts must use for teacher evaluations when deciding who gets laid off.
“From what I can tell on what the state is working to put together for the teacher effectiveness model, they are doing their absolute best to imbed good research into it,” said Joch.
State officials are working with a Charlotte Danielson model that has been in place for years in Waterford as a guide for teacher evaluations, Joch said.
Under that system, about half a teacher’s evaluation is based on detailed models of practice for planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities.
The other half looks at detailed components of student achievement.
Evaluation schedule. In Waterford, first-year or new to the district teachers are evaluated three times their first year, said Joch.
Teachers working in the district for two or three years are evaluated twice annually. Fourth-year teachers are evaluated once annually. Teachers with more experience are evaluated on a three-year cycle.
“That doesn’t prohibit administration from going in and revaluating at any time,” Joch said.
Bonus pay. This school year, the WGSD board has decided that summative evaluations of each teacher in the district should be done.
Principals expect to have the evaluations done in April. These will be reviewed and used to determine possible allocation of supplemental pay for use as a bonus reward for WGSD teachers performing at a high level.
The district has not yet finalized whether these bonuses will be a flat or percentage amount, said Joch, and the amount available is still to be determined.
“It all depends. If we under-spend in other areas, then that can free up money for the supplemental pay.
“It depends on how much money is left for us to work with.”