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You Asked, We Answer: A Couple More RIF Questions

You Asked, We Answer: A Couple More RIF Questions

Answers to other frequently asked questions about RIFs.

Hopefully most of you aren’t having to face a RIF situation this year. If you are, though, I have listed below a couple more questions I frequently hear that are worth reviewing once again.

How can our district make a decision whether to RIF or not for next school year when we aren’t certain about the upcoming financial situation? 

That has been a problem for many districts. If you’re hopeful you can maintain current staffing levels but still have a fair amount of uncertainty about the coming year’s finances when the decision needs to be made, your district could implement “preventive” RIFs to cover itself.  

“Preventive RIF” is a term of art. In reality, the district is implementing a regular RIF, but at the same time you let the affected staff members know if the money is there when all is said and done, some or all of the reduced staff will be called back to work.  

The risk of doing this, of course, is that those people will find other jobs and will not be available if called back. Right now, while we have a major teacher shortage, that’s a fairly large risk for some positions. However, by implementing the RIF that way--at least in the case of teachers--the district has made sure that it is not contractually bound to pay someone a year’s salary it may not be able to afford to pay.

How does a RIF work for retired teachers?

Retired teachers re-acquire career status after three consecutive complete years of employment with your district if they are placed on a regular contract upon return to employment (or if they are first on a temporary contract and then placed on a regular contract). In that event, they would be considered for the RIF hierarchy and your RIF policy just like any other career teacher (i.e. priority over a probationary teacher, “reasonable accommodation” into another position if their position is eliminated, etc.).

One thing districts might want to consider is that retired teachers returning to employment may be placed on a temporary contract without the four-semester limitation the law requires for non-retired teachers. This can be somewhat helpful—in the event of a need to reduce staff, a RIF hearing would not need to be held for those teachers. Their temporary contracts would simply not be renewed for the ensuing year.  

Please do not hesitate to call me at any time if you have questions or need more information about RIFs or any other school legal matters. My cell number is 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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