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Additional information not initially included was added below under the heading FDA - Fair Dismissal Act Questions
FBOE MEDIA RELEASE: All Floyd Schools employees received the following information in an e-mail outlining a board policy being developed to address the process used by the system in case of dismissal of personnel. The email was sent by Dr. Jackson.
The court decision of last year (related to the Day case) affirming that the Georgia Legislature’s approval of the Charter System Act eliminated or exempted all charter school systems from the Fair Dismissal Act, so that the protections under the FDA no longer applied to charter systems in Georgia, resulted in uncertainty for our staff on exactly where they would stand in the case of a dismissal. Due to this uncertainty, the board needed to address this policy and process for our school system.
The board started the process in October of last year and each Local School Governance Team and the College and Career Academy Board of Directors was visited to discuss the viewpoints of the different voices from staff, parents, business and community leaders regarding the issue. The last meeting was held in mid-January. Two main themes emerged from these meetings. First, the community wanted to make sure that the school system could employ the best possible teacher to work with children in the classroom. Second, it was important that teachers feel valued and have a path of appeal.
The board has worked with administration to develop a process that would address the two main themes voiced by the community. The policy will help to ensure the best possible teacher in the classroom in Floyd County Schools and also outline a process for appeal for any educator feeling that a decision to end employment with the school system was not handled appropriately.
The new policy will also provide the same process for administrators. That option is not currently available to administrators in the state of Georgia but the board wished to offer our administrators the same options for appeal.
The timeline will be for the new policy to be introduced for first reading at the April board meeting and for the period of comment and feedback on the policy to begin at that time. The final policy could be adopted as early as the May meeting.
FDA - Fair Dismissal Act Questions
The Floyd County Board of Education has carefully considered the question of how to provide the very best possible education professional in the classroom for children and a fair process to professional educators the board values as a vital part of our school system. The court decision of last year affirming that the Georgia Legislature’s approval of the Charter System Act eliminated or exempted all charter school systems from the Fair Dismissal Act, so that the protections under the FDA no longer applied to charter systems in Georgia, resulted in a tone of uncertainty for our staff that needed to be addressed by the board. In an effort to include those served by the board in the process, each school LSGT and the Board of Directors of the College and Career Academy was visited during the months of November, December and January to provide an opportunity for the board to hear from the groups on this very important matter. A variety of ideas and thoughts were shared by LSGT members and there were common themes that emerged from these discussions. First, it was important that any process developed by the board culminate in the school system employing the very best possible educator to work with children in the classroom. Second, it was important that the process provide fairness to teachers and offer them an opportunity for review in the event of a termination or non-renewal. After careful consideration of thoughts and suggestions of teachers, parents and community leaders, the board wishes to provide this information regarding dismissal rights of employees in the school system. The board has worked to address the two essential elements of ensuring the best possible teacher in the classroom and equity for personnel in the process.
1. Is Floyd County Schools a Charter System, and how is it different from traditional public school systems in Georgia?
Floyd County Schools became a charter system in July of 2010. This means that the school district and each of our schools have flexibility from many state education laws. In exchange for this flexibility, Floyd County Schools has agreed to satisfy certain student and educational performance standards. For example, state law dictates how much time students must be in the classroom (“seat time”), and the certification requirements for teachers. Some of the other types of practices or procedures that have been waived include class size, teacher certification requirements, and requirements for course credit and other practices. Now that Floyd County Schools is a charter system, the school district is allowed to determine those, and many other, policies and procedures for our schools.
2. What are Local School Governance Teams, and what do they do?
Local School Governance Teams work with the principal and school system on the long-term vision and strategy for the schools in their community. The Local School Governance Teams are comprised of the principal, staff members, parents and leaders from the community. They are responsible for working with administrators and teachers on the local level to provide the best learning opportunities for children in our community’s schools. Examples of their influence can include participation in the development of the school’s strategic plan and school budget recommendations. The LSGT groups also can provide characteristics of individuals desired in school hires and make recommendations on the local level about various personnel matters. Participation in the process is an important element of being a charter system; however, all staff or employees are ultimately hired and managed by the school district. For example, when a principal vacancy occurs, the Local School Governance Team provides characteristics of an individual to be considered to fill the vacancy, a member of the LSGT is selected by the group to serve on the interview committee, and the group will review and provide additional consultation regarding the individual to be recommended by the superintendent to the board for approval. It is still the responsibility of the superintendent to make a recommendation to the board and the board to approve the formal hiring of an individual.
3. Do I currently have tenure as an employee of Floyd County Schools?
Georgia does not have “tenure” for any K-12 teachers in the same way that university professors would have tenure, but Georgia teachers in a traditional public school system do have rights under the Fair Dismissal Act (FDA) which provides certain procedural rights including a hearing to determine whether a recommended termination is appropriate. When the Georgia Legislature created the Charter School Act, it eliminated or exempted all charter school systems from the Fair Dismissal Act, so the protections under the FDA no longer apply to Floyd County Schools.
4. Does Floyd County Schools offer any protections or procedures for teacher terminations?
Although not required by Georgia law, Floyd County School District will offer similar procedural rights to contract employees as those found in the FDA. The procedural rights will include a hearing before the Board of Education, to allow an educator who has previously received at least four (4) consecutive written contracts of employment to appeal a termination or a contract non-renewal. The procedures to be implemented by Floyd County Schools will enable employees under contract to gain a clear understanding about any adverse employment action being taken and will also provide appeal opportunities before both the superintendent and the Floyd County Board of Education to ensure more than one opportunity to be heard. These new procedures for teachers under contract will be formally implemented no later than July 1, 2016.
5. Could Floyd County Schools still embrace or offer the procedures found in the Fair Dismissal Act that applies to non-charter school systems?
Floyd County Schools could petition the State Board of Education to amend its Charter System Contract to include the provisions of the Fair Dismissal Act. However, charter school systems were created to allow for efficiency, creativity, implementation of new teaching methods and ideas, and greater flexibility in course offerings and operations. This flexibility was created and provided to all Georgia charter school systems to encourage creativity and flexibility in operations of schools in exchange for the school system’s agreement to pursue and satisfy higher student achievement and educational performance standards. The Board of Education has a duty to the citizens of Floyd County to make the best use of the freedom and flexibility from state laws granted to charter schools by the General Assembly that will allow the system to fully explore and implement innovation to more effectively support and accelerate the achievement of children in our classrooms and for the benefit of those served by the school system. Even so, in a spirit of providing an equitable process for teachers, Floyd County Schools is implementing procedures similar to the protections provided to teachers under the Fair Dismissal Act. (See Answer to question number 4, above).
6. How can teachers remain reasonably secure in their jobs?
To reach student performance goals under the charter system contract, it is imperative that the school system hire, train and retain the very best teachers to work with our students each day in the classroom. Teachers, who are committed to children, continually hone their craft and develop their skill as a teaching professional will have the utmost in job security. We all want to work along-side professionals who work hard to help educate students, are prepared, on time, and a part of the school’s education team. Teachers with effective teaching skills and up-to-date credentials and who develop strong healthy relationships with students, parents, and staff typically have job security because the school system can’t reach charter goals without such committed professionals.
7. Do Floyd County Schools still have employment protections offered under Federal laws?
Yes, all federal protections remain in force and effect. Georgia’s Charter School Act does not waive any federal employment rights or laws, and all employees remain protected by state workers’ compensation laws and federal laws that protect employees against acts of discrimination involving age, pregnancy, disability, gender, race, religion, national origin, family medical leave, and all other protected classes of persons recognized under federal laws and statutes.
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