BY Charles Lussier
Advocate staff writer
July 06, 2012
The last day on the job arrived Thursday for 32 employees of the financially-struggling East Baton Rouge Parish school system, but they are on a recall list to take any new positions that open in the weeks and months ahead, according to a school system spokesman.
Spokesman Chris Trahan said it’s still possible more layoffs could occur between now and the start of the 2012-13 school year on Aug. 8 as the system deals with budget cuts. The school system has nearly 6,000 employees.
New Superintendent Bernard Taylor said further layoffs are unlikely but that he wants to see where students end up enrolling this fall before giving the all clear sign.
In particular, Taylor said, he wants to see how many students opt to transfer to private schools as part of the state’s new voucher law. Another factor is how many students enroll at Istrouma High, which the state is taking over, or remain within the parish school system, he said.
This marks the second year in a row that the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, the second largest in the state, has had employee layoffs, albeit limited ones.
Both years, the school system in March invoked its Reduction In Force, or RIF, policy and sent letters to every employee in the system notifying them of potential layoff. Each year, the school system strove to avoid across-the-board layoffs and in the end laid off relatively small numbers of employees.
“Last year, 23 employees received a RIF letter, 18 were brought back later,” Trahan said.
This year, the school system sent out a total of 43 individual pink slips, Trahan said, but 11 of those employees retired, resigned or found other jobs in the system. That left 32 employees to be laid off this year, all of whom are on recall lists if new jobs open.
In May, the School Board approved $28.4 million in budget cuts, moves that eliminated 221 job positions. The board locked in the cuts when it approved its $410 million general operating budget on June 11.
Over the weeks from the first RIF letter to all employees to the final RIF letter to those whose jobs were eliminated, some employees retired, found other jobs or left the school system entirely.
More layoffs are possible in coming years.
The school system is estimating that cuts of $15 million, $14 million, and $11 million will be necessary for each of the following fiscal years.
The RIF process is set to change.
One of many changes to education law the Legislature approved this past session says that seniority and tenure status can no longer be the primary criteria in determining layoffs. Instead public schools need to rely on measures of employee effectiveness that are still being developed. Also, the superintendent, not the School Board, will make the final call as to what employees are laid off.
The school system has until Sept. 1 to devise a new RIF policy that reflects the new state law.