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MPS Update on Teacher Realignment Process
Press release, 10 Aug 2004, Minneapolis Public Schools

[Comment by Doug Mann: Again, district officials say the MPS budget
for 2004-2005 called for "the reduction of more than 600 teachers."  
Yet the 2004-2005 budget calls for 210 fewer full time teacher positions
than the 2003-2004 budget.  
    It is also note-worthy that the district reassigned 140 high-seniority
elementary teachers in order to preserve the jobs of 92 elementary
teachers with tenure (and less seniority), according to the press release.
   The objective of the realignment process was to realign high-seniority
teachers out of their jobs, not to save the jobs of any tenured teachers.
Moreover, the district is doing a whole lot more teacher reshuffling than is
necessary, and the supplementary teacher reshuffling was not done with
the informed consent of the affected teachers, which is a violation of
the teacher tenure act, in my opinion.]

Subj:      [Mpls] MPS Update on Teacher Realignment Process
Date:     8/10/2004 1:02:38 PM Central Daylight Time
From:     shauna.croom@mpls.k12.mn.us (MPS Communications)
Sender:     mpls-bounces@mnforum.org
To:     mpls@mnforum.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:      Alan Giles
                    District General Council
                    612.668.0480

Update on the Teacher Realignment Process in Minneapolis Public Schools

August 10, 2004 - For the fourth straight year, the Minneapolis Public
Schools (MPS) has been forced to make significant budget reductions,
which includes eliminating many valued staff positions. In June, the
Board of Education approved a budget that reflected a gap of $22.8
million between revenues and expenditures. The reduction of more than
600 teachers, 153 of which have tenure, for next fall reflects an
anticipated enrollment decline of 4,600 students from Fall 2003 to Fall
2004.

"With the loss of this many teachers, significant changes are
inevitable," said Minneapolis Public Schools Executive Director of
Employee Relations Steven Belton. "When cuts go so deep, the process of
how the most senior teachers are retained becomes more complicated."

The Minnesota Teacher Tenure Law, required Minneapolis Public Schools to
reassign approximately 140 tenured teachers who hold more than one
license.  In the 1986 case of Arlene M. Strand, et al v. Special School
District No.1, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in that the Teacher
Tenure Act requires districts to save tenured teaching positions by
reassigning (realigning) teachers who hold multiple teaching licenses.

"While we believe we have followed the intent of the law and we have
preserved positions of 92 elementary tenured teachers and 63 others, we,
like many parents, are not pleased with a process that disrupts staff,"
said Board of Education Chair Sharon Henry-Blythe.  "Teacher stability
is important to us because we know it's important to families and
ultimately affects student achievement. Further, we do not necessarily
agree that removing classroom teachers from certain grades and assigning
them to other areas where they hold a teaching license is in the best
interest of our students."

At a Board retreat on Saturday, July 24, understanding the concern some
teachers and families have about this realignment, the Board recommended
that Superintendent Thandiwe Peebles work with the Minneapolis
Federation of Teachers and request them to "expand the district
administration's discretion in realigning tenured teachers within the
parameters of the Minnesota Teacher Tenure Law and the Minnesota Supreme
Court decision." Specifically, the Board recommended two courses to
pursue with MFT:

    1) Instead of exempting from alignment any "categories" of tenured
    teachers (such as Spanish immersion), allow district administrators
    to exempt at their discretion and interpretation of the following
    language in the Strand decision: "the school district's needs
    reflecting the welfare of the students and the public."

-OR-

    2) Allow district administration to exempt from realignment tenured
    teachers who require specialized training for magnet or SLC (small
    learning communities) programs and less restrictive special
    education classrooms (such as Autism).

On Monday, July 26, Superintendent Peebles summoned the district's lead
general counsel, Allen Giles, and executive director of labor relations,
Steven Belton, and assigned them to negotiate with the MFT and the
state's teacher union, Education Minnesota, in the above matters (1 and
2) as directed by the Board. Their findings were to be reported back to
the Superintendent 48 hours later.

On July 28, in their written response to the negotiation efforts by
Giles and Belton, the union stated that:

    * It did not have the legal authority to give the district
    independent discretion to realign teachers and would not agree to do
    so; and

    * It did not have the legal authority to authorize the district
    independently to exempt teachers based on specialized training and
    would not agree to do so.

The union noted that legislative authority was necessary for the Board
to obtain the discretion it had sought from the union.

"Following our discussions with MFT, it is clear that any change to the
realignment process will require legislative action," said Belton. "We
all agree -- the unions, the district's general counsel, outside legal
counsel and myself -- that the district has only one legal option and
that is to continue the current realignment procedures."

"We, as a board, understand that the realignment process will not change
for this fall and we will place this issue as a top priority in our
legislative agenda for this coming session," said Henry-Blythe.  
"Clearly, this is a complicated issue and a difficult one for some staff
and families who may lose a valued teacher to another district school as
a result of realignment."

On July 24, the district legal counsel proposed and the Board accepted a
long-term solution that calls for the district to pursue legislative
change for subsequent years. Legislative change could include:

    * Bargaining for factors other than seniority to be the primary
    consideration in teacher layoffs;

    * Including a new area of licensure for specialized training in some
    disciplines such as autism;

    * Requiring discontinuance, and subsequent bumping, of teaching
    positions within each school building rather than within the district.

MPS administration has instructed realigned teachers to report to the
assignments they received through the placement process and principals
are moving forward and building relationships with their new staffs.
"All realigned teachers will receive training, orientation and ongoing
mentoring to make certain that our students' learning is not
compromised," Belton said.

"While this is not the best way to start the school year, Minneapolis
Public Schools will comply with the law, but we will actively pursue
legislative changes to this law that are in the best interest of our
students, parents and teachers," said Superintendent Peebles.