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Reductions in Force

The past year has been challenging to schools in so many ways. Although we’re beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the after effects of the pandemic on student enrollment, staffing needs and finances—just to name a few—as we move toward next school year. Some of you may need to consider a reduction in force (RIF) to accommodate changes in your particular situation.  

If this applies to your school and you’re ready to start looking at positions to cut, the first thing you should do is to consult your RIF policy. Especially if you haven’t reviewed it in a while, there may be something in there you’re not aware of. It’s important for you to not get caught in a tricky situation because of a policy technicality.  RIFs are generally not challenged on the merits of necessity but rather on whether or not policy has been followed.

Be mindful that a RIF cannot be done mid-year for certified employees. If you intend to recommend a RIF of certified staff to your board for the FY21-22 school year, you must do so and notify the affected teachers of the recommendation prior to the first Monday in June. In the event you need to conduct a mid-year RIF for non-certified positions, you may do this at any time.

Schools in the past have grappled with creative ways to RIF without completely terminating entire jobs. It is possible—and has been successfully done in many districts—to RIF parts of positions. For example, a school I worked with in the past cut an hour or two per day from several positions rather than completely eliminate them. This worked out better for that particular district because they were able to save jobs. The employees affected weren’t thrilled, but at least they were still employed.

What kind of paperwork is involved?

  • Notice to the employees in the affected positions, which lets them know they’re being recommended for RIF, as well as their due process rights
  • Recommendation to the board stating the reason a RIF is necessary, the positions recommended for RIF and the affected employees
  • An agenda for the RIF hearing
  • A findings of fact from the RIF hearing
  • A letter of notice to the affected employees of the board’s decision at the RIF hearing, once it has occurred

I can help you get through a RIF as smoothly as possible, with samples of the documents you will need, as well as a lot of practical experience in this field. If you would like to ask me any questions, please call me directly at 405.520.9680.

Terri Thomas

Director, Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC. Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS).

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