New policy schedule frees superintendent to act during budget hardship

JupeThe Scappoose School District Board voted unanimously Thursday, Feb. 20, to approve a policy that allows the board to reduce staff during periods of budgetary shortfall.

While the policy, called reduction in force, is not new, the board’s approach to approve it annually as part of standard procedure versus on an as-needed basis is a change to its prior practice.

State labor law dictates that the policy needs to be invoked on any given year to grant the superintendent authority to terminate district employees, should the budget determine such action is necessary, said Scappoose School District Superintendent Stephen Jupe.

“A reduction in force doesn’t mean you’re going to lay off a lot of people. It’s something you might have to invoke,” Jupe said. “It’s really in the interest of everybody that we’re able to do that as efficiently and as soon as possible.”

Jupe said he had no intention of laying off district employees, adding that the policy is also necessary for the shifting of employees’ titles as well as those who may be part-time or taking a leave of absence.

“It’s a complicated formula. You never know quite what’s going to happen when somebody’s status changes,” Jupe said.

Jupe said the policy is something the board will likely pass every year as a means of getting ahead of the necessary vote prior to potential layoffs or employee status changes taking place.

The current Scappoose School District budget is significant in that it aims to relieve recent years of fiscal belt-tightening.

In the 2011-12 school year, the district had to mandate furlough days due to a tight budget. While the district reinstated a full school calendar the following year, it reduced Student Teacher Education Program, or STEP, raises for teachers. STEP raises are based on teacher seniority.

When the current budget was proposed in April, Jupe estimated the Scappoose School District would be able to bring back a full calendar year and STEPs, as well as maintain the district’s staffing levels through the year.

Jupe said at the time that five teaching positions had been cut from Scappoose High School over the past five years, adding the district anticipated no cuts this fiscal year.

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