Law will make board function as a unitPublished 9:00pm Tuesday, August 30, 2011
It was a superlative design and presentation of the Students First Act by the officials of the Alabama Association of School Boards during our district meeting held at Ramada Inn on Aug. 23. It was simple but sophisticated. For the most part, it was designed to simplify the roles of the school board in the newly enacted act that replaced the Teacher Tenure Act and the Fair Dismissal Act.
My more than 20 years of experience in enforcing government laws and three years on the school board helping to establish policies, have exposed me to the fact that it is essential to understand the basics of a new law before enforcing it. Consequently, I asked one of the presenters to ensure they stress on the key points and they did. It was great.
Board members are generally required to keep the outcome of their deliberations and executive sessions secret, but it was my observation at the meeting that the Students First Act demands that a board member becomes more secretive and guarded. It is so because with the new act, the school board becomes the jury and the judge. Just like the regular court hearings, the judge and the jury are not expected to disclose the outcome of their hearings to the public.
Another key point that was of immense importance is the fact that employees who have given their best for their school system, who are not on probation and may be tenured, should not be terminated for political or personal reasons.
The board has to show justifiable rationale for actions based on decrease in number of positions, incompetency, insubordination, neglect of duty, immorality and failure to perform duty or other just cause.
In the case a notice and rationale for termination is sent to tenured or nonprobationary personnel, it is my understanding that we cannot even discuss it with the superintendent; the employee has 15 days to request a hearing; and if hearing is requested, the board holds full hearing in 30-60 days and a record is kept. The board makes the decision and the employee is notified within 10 days of the hearing. Also pertinent is the fact that the employee may appeal to a judge who can rule up or down.
I agree with the fact the board‘s decision could be appealed if need be. It will help the board keep from making careless decisions relative to people’s livelihood.
It is a new act, which will demand clarifications as we go along. Also relevant is the fact that with the new law, we still have to act as one board; individual board members have no independent authority.