Contract allows protections

The District 191 School Board voted Aug. 22 to protect teaching positions in specialized roles from potential layoffs.

The positions are in Burnsville High School’s career Pathways programs, College in the Schools courses and Project Lead the Way engineering courses, Human Resources Director Stacey Sovine told the board.

The protections apply to the 2020-21 school year. The board adopted similar protections for 2019-20 after the last contract settlement with the Burnsville Education Association.

Under the two-year contract, the district can annually carve out priority programs taught by hard-to-replace teachers with unique certifications. The district had relied on seniority to determine unrequested leaves, but state law now requires districts to negotiate procedures that can include seniority.

During protracted negotiations to replace the contract that expired June 30, 2017, the board used the law to seek greater latitude in teacher layoffs and break the chain of what critics call Minnesota’s “last in, first out” seniority system.

In addition to seeking contract language to protect teachers by program, the district sought language allowing it to use teachers’ disciplinary records as a factor in layoffs, along with seniority, licensing and qualifications.

Negotiations with the teachers union soured badly over the provision, which held up the talks and didn’t make it into the contract.

But Sovine said the language allowing the teacher protections was a “great achievement for the board.”

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