TUSD Supt. reiterates no teacher layoffs because of pandemic

Supt. Trullijo reacts to local report of teacher layoffs
TUSD Superintendent reiterates no layoffs
Posted at 12:05 PM, Apr 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 15:05:58-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A newspaper article reports teacher cuts despite the superintendent saying there would not be any.

The Arizona Daily Star reports contracts for more than 60 teachers are not being renewed. That's contradictory to a statement he made to KGUN 9 two weeks ago when Valerie Cavazos asked if there would be any staff reductions heading into the next school year.

“It's one of our proudest achievements to be able to navigate this pandemic successfully without having to execute any reductions in force, especially in the teacher ranks,” Trujillo had said.

KGUN 9 reached out to Superintendent Trujillo for clarification. He stands by his previous statement that the district did not issue a district-level mandate for schools to cut any teaching positions at any point. Reductions necessary to address the enrollment loss are being addressed through hiring freezes, elimination of vacant positions, retirements, or temporary assignments expiring, Trujillo said..

We reached out to the Tucson Education Association. President Margaret Cheney said teachers are leaving the district on their own. Her last count, based on Governing Board documents, is 51 -- but she agreed that it's not considered a reduction in force or layoffs.

KGUN 9 will continue investigating staffing in TUSD.

TUSD Superintendent Full Statement:

Non-Continuing Teachers/ Temporary Teaching Contracts/ Short Term Teaching Contracts are Temporary Assignments and Not Cuts

The definition and designation of non-continuing teachers as probationary and temporary employees is defined under AZ Statute (ARS 15-538.01) and are applied to teachers in their first three years of service at TUSD. The continuation of non-continuing teachers as defined by ARS 15-538.01 is at the recommendation of the principal. Non-Continuing teachers are in the same category as temporary employees in that they have been issued a short-term contract for a school year with no right or assumption of continuation of employment beyond the end date of the contract. These terms apply to semester teaching contracts and short-term teaching contracts ranging anywhere from 11 day to 1-year assignments as well. The expiration of short-term teaching contracts and non-continuing teaching contracts do not constitute, nor meet the definition of employee reductions in force, cuts or “lay-offs” for the following reasons:

1. These temporary contracts are not included in the budget beyond the year in which the terms were active because they automatically expire. A “cut” is the elimination of an existing expenditure that reduces overall budgetary capacity. The elimination of these positions has no budgetary impact on the 21-22 school year’s budget because the funding of these positions expired at the end of the 20-21 school year.

2. A reduction in force (RIF), most recently enacted in the Gilbert Unified School District involves the elimination of positions held by “vested” employees, or “permanent” employees who have established, through longevity and seniority, full rights to guaranteed compensation, benefits, and the protections of full due process in any employee disciplinary or staffing reduction process. In the case of Tucson Unified, this applies to all certificated teachers beyond the 3rd year of service in the district, not teachers on temporary assignments. It is in this spirit, applicable to these employees, that my statement emphasizing that the Tucson Unified School District has not laid off any employees this year nor is it planning to “lay-off” employees for the upcoming year is accurate.

3. A reduction in force (RIF), or “lay-off” has a budgetary effect as it eliminates an existing expenditure that has the effect of shrinking overall budget capacity.

Tucson Unified School District School Staffing and Budget Process:

Principal Autonomy in the Tucson Unified School District, site principals create their campus schedules and determine their staffing needs based off of each school’s enrollment on the 40th day of the current academic year. For example, principals utilized 40th day enrollment for their schools from the 20-21 school year, which occurred on October 6th, 2020 to create their campus schedules and determine their - needs for the 21-22 school year. In TUSD, the staffing process is site based and led by campus principals. During this process, if campus principals identify surplus teaching positions due to lower enrollment, they will recommend the non-continuation of any teacher on a temporary contract, including non-continuing teachers.

This option allows principals to protect their respective staffs from “lay-offs” or “district-initiated transfers”. A district-initiated transfer is an action taken by the district to protect the continued employment of an employee from a campus that can no longer sustain the position as it places the employee in an open position at another school or department in the district. It should be noted that additionally and most commonly, principals recommend non-continuation for non-continuing teachers for performance reasons, if the teacher has since departed from the assignment, or the non-continuing teacher has communicated a decision to leave the assignment at the point of its expiration.

The Tucson Unified School District’s Current Situation with Personnel Cuts and Reductions in Force

The Tucson Unified School District Administration, at no point during the 20-21 school year, executed a “reduction in force” for any position in the district, nor did it issue a district level mandate for schools to cut any teaching positions at any point. For the 21-22 school year, the Tucson Unified School District has not recommended, nor will it be recommending “reductions in force” or recommendations for positional eliminations resulting in the lay-off of any employee. The financial adjustments and reductions necessary to address the impact of the district’s enrollment loss during the 20-21 school year were addressed through a hiring freeze and eventual elimination of identified vacant positions, identified positions to be vacated at the end of the 20-21 through retirements or the expiration of temporary assignments at the conclusion of the 20-21 school year. It is in this category of temporary assignments concluding at the end of the 20-21 school year where a site principal can exercise an option for the non-continuation of a non-continuing teacher.