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Platteville school board to vote on new employee handbook
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PLATTEVILLE — The Platteville School Board will hold a final vote June 11 on the school district’s new employee handbook.

The handbook replaces most of the teacher contract the school district has with the Platteville Education Association, the school district’s teacher union. The public employee collective bargaining reforms passed by the state Legislature in 2011 give school districts and local governments more authority over workplace conditions.

While “the school board does have the ability to change the Employee Handbook at any time,” school district superintendent Connie Valenza said at the board’s May 29 meeting, “I think overall most of the things in here were things as a board you felt comfortable with.”

The school board May 29 approved the last section of the handbook, covering supervision and evaluation of union and nonunion employees.

The handbook sets the process by which union employees can have their jobs terminated — during a teacher contract period for cause, as a contract nonrenewal for “reasons that are not arbitrary or capricious,” or as a contract nonrenewal if a teacher is “unable to meet expectation after being on a ‘Plan of Improvement’ for three consecutive semesters.”

“There still is potential and the opportunity for improvement in performance” to avoid contract nonrenewal, said Valenza.

Nonunion employees also can have their jobs terminated for “reasons that are not arbitrary or capricious” or for not improving job performance after being on a Plan of Improvement “for three consecutive cycles” “determined by supervising administrator depending on deficiencies noted.”

“I think probably the biggest change is the concept of employee performance,” said Valenza. “The only time this would come into play is if this person was on a plan of improvement.”

The school district’s employee discipline policies and grievance procedure are continuing.

Layoffs of union employees will now be based on five criteria — the school district’s “educational needs and priorities”; qualifications set by the school board; the qualifications of other employees in the “grade level, department or certification area”; whether or not a potentially laid-off employee is in a performance improvement plan; and the employee’s length of service.

Seniority had been the only previous criterion for layoffs.

Similar criteria will be used to determine layoffs of nonunion employees, including the qualifications of other employees in the job category where layoffs may be made.

The handbook also states that the school district “has the right to select the most qualified applicants based on the educational needs and priorities” of the school district. School district employees who are laid off will be placed on a 24-month reemployment/recall eligibility list.

“It does clearly state that the district has the right to select the most qualified applicant,” said Valenza.

The handbook also changes the school year calendar in inservices or weather or emergency days that students don’t make up. The handbook will require that teachers make up weather days as professional days, for technology training, added onto the end of the school year, and as curriculum-based inservices, Regularly scheduled inservices will be determined by the school district administrator and building principals.

Valenza noted at the school board meeting May 14 that not making up weather days cost the school district about $50,000 per day. Teachers formerly were not required to make up the first three weather days of the school year, which cost the school district up to $150,000.

“Although people are perhaps not happy with that, they understand the reason,” she said for the weather day change.