After Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Superintendent Brigid Nease stated that all teachers in the district would get pink slips if the $39,770,000 budget is voted down at Town Meeting next week, The Valley Reporter reached out to Greg Shepler, co-president of the Harwood Unified Education Association (HUEA), for a response and details.
By way of background, Shepler explained that the teachers Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is a mutually agreed upon contract that binds both signatories (the HUUSD Board and the Harwood Unified Education Association) and tries to identify roles, responsibilities and expectations.
“The CBA does identify the process to be followed in the event that the board votes to adopt a budget that includes reductions in force (RIFs). It is true that the RIF policy follows seniority and protests the reasonable expectation interests of all parties to the contract. It should be pointed out that the seniority list is known to the board, the association and the superintendent. Whenever the board votes to adopt a budget that includes RIFs, the programmatic and personnel affected by those RIFs are easy to determine (because of the seniority list) and hopefully a part of the decision-making calculus of the board before RIFs are adopted. This is the advantage of having a contract. The impacts can be considered before a decision is made. Thus, it is misleading to blame the association for the seniority-based RIF procedure as part of a contract that the board willingly signed and is legally obligated to follow,” Shepler clarified.
Regarding all teachers getting pink slips in the event of a budget getting voted down, he said that the CBA does not identify the policy and procedures related to pink slips except to establish dates when the association must be notified about RIFs ("... on or before March 15."; Article 8.2) and when the board will offer contracts ("... on or before April 1."; Article 10.1).
“Pink slips are the practice of trying to meet the contractual requirements of the CBA within the uncertainties of a failed budget. In the case of a failed budget, the board technically does not have the funds to pay staff (for the upcoming school year). Therefore, they will issue pink slips to everyone (because they can't guarantee employment). Per our agreement, they need to do that by March 15,” Shepler said.
At that point two things can happen.
A new budget is passed and based on the new budget amount (which could be the same dollar amount or less or more) contracts are issued.
Or a new budget doesn't pass by the April 1 which triggers contract issuance requirement in the CBA. In that case, staff will be issued letters of intent.
“Letters of intent mean we intend to hire you back for this position, but we don't have the money yet so we cannot guarantee that. Once a budget is passed, the letters of intent will be replaced by official contracts,” he continued.
“Although pink slips give the impression that everyone has lost their job, it is simply the method school boards use to satisfy the contract until the budget is passed. Pink slips do have an inherent fear factor connected to them, but obviously schools will reopen next August and current staff will be rehired. Pink slips do not mean staff members lose their jobs. Using pink slips to achieve RIFs would be considered a violation of our CBA as well as existing Vermont labor laws. The fact that pink slips are currently creating uncertainty in our community is a testimony to the amazing support of school budgets by our communities in past years,” Shepler