School Law Advisor Blog

November Newsletter - Joint Committee Updates, Principal and Assistant Principal Evaluation, and Reclassification

 

As we begin to work with the new laws and proposals we are seeing at the bargaining tables, we wanted to offer our thoughts about some of our changed perspectives, as well as some of the issues we have begun to see during bargaining.  As with any major change in law, the implications of PERA and the Education Reform Act and follow-up legislation are still being examined, and we continue to uncover new challenges and creative solutions for the new procedures before us.  

 

Consistent with our firm philosophy to help educators in the business of education, we wanted to take this opportunity to offer our thoughts on some of the problems and the solutions.  Our experience is fluid on these matters, and we remain committed to helping your districts overcome the obstacles these challenges present.
 
Joint Committees  
 
First, with joint committees beginning work on language to comply with the groupings required by law, differing interpretations of the order of placement within groupings are becoming apparent.  The law states as follows:

"Within grouping 2, the sequence of dismissal must be based upon average performance evaluation ratings, with the teacher or teachers with the lowest average performance evaluation rating dismissed first. A teacher's average performance evaluation rating must be calculated using the average of the teacher's last 2 performance evaluation ratings, if 2 ratings are available, or the teacher's last performance evaluation rating, if only one rating is available, using the following numerical values: 4 for Excellent; 3 for Proficient or Satisfactory; 2 for Needs Improvement; and 1 for Unsatisfactory. 

"As between or among teachers in grouping 2 with the same average performance evaluation rating and within each of groupings 3 and 4, the teacher or teachers with the shorter length of continuing service with the school district or joint agreement must be dismissed first unless an alternative method of determining the sequence of dismissal is established in a collective bargaining agreement or contract between the board and a professional faculty members' organization."  105 ILCS 5/24-12(b). 

We believe the law requires districts to categorize teachers by seniority order within each of groupings 3 and 4, rather than by performance order within those groupings, unless alternate agreement is reached with the teachers' bargaining representative.  This is a change from our earlier interpretation - our earlier newsletters indicated our early opinion that grouping 2 order (which is defined by performance unless there is a ranking tie) dictated order within each of groupings 3 and 4.  

This evolution in our guidance emphasises the importance of careful review and fact-specific counsel on each district's individual issues.  Our opinions on these matters continue to evolve with our experience with the law and at the table, and we will continue to provide further guidance as our opinions and experience develop.
 

Reclassification of Principals and Assistant Principals

  

Second, Public Act 97-217 was recently signed into law requiring changes to Assistant Principal evaluation plans.  In addition to applying the performance evaluation requirements from the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA or SB315) to assistant principal evaluations and mandating annual evaluation for assistant principals, the Act has changed the requirements for change in employment status for both prinicpals and assistant principals.

P.A. 97-217 altered Section 10-23.8b of the School Code, adding a new section (c-5), applying new requirements for the evaluation of assistant principals.  The Act requires: 

"The evaluation of an assistant principal must be performed by the principal, the district superintendent, the superintendent's designee, or, in the absence of the superintendent or his or her designee, an individual appointed by the school board who holds a registered Type 75 State administrative certificate. The evaluation must be in writing and must at least do all of the following: (1) Consider the assistant principal's specific duties, responsibilities, management, and competence as an assistant principal. (2) Specify the assistant principal's strengths and weaknesses with supporting reasons. (3) Align with the Illinois Professional Standards for School Leaders or research-based district standards." 105 ILCS 5/24A-15

Additionally, the law now requires that evaluations of assistant principals conducted "on and after September 1, 2012, provide for the use of data and indicators on student growth as a significant factor in rating performance."  A copy of the evaluation (which must occur at least once during the term of the principal or assistant principal's contract) be place in that employee's personnel file.   Id. at (d).  The Act cautions that failure to evaluate the principal or assistant principal is evidence that the employee is performing duties and responsibilities in at east a sastisfactory manner, and shall serve to automatically extend the contract for a period of one year.  Id. at (e).  

Finally, the Act altered how reclassification works.  First, the reclassification requirements of 10-23.8b are now applied to and required for the demotion of both a principal and an assistant principal (the law previously required such steps only after the demotion of a principal).  Prior to the implementation of PA. 97-217, the law required that a principal who was employed with a district for more than two (2) years must be reclassified upon non-renewal of a principal's administrative contract.  P.A. 97-217 removed the laws reference to two (2) years, indicating reclassification is now require for all principals and assistant principals prior to demotion or termination.  This requires a district to comply with the procedural requirements of reclassification, including evaluation, 10 days notice, and the right to a private hearing and a public hearing. 

At Miller, Tracy, Braun, Funk & Miller, Ltd., we strive to keep you apprised of changes to the law and developments in interpretations as to the best of our abilities.  We look forward to the opportunity to continue to represent you and your schools.