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Board mulls state changes to layoff policy
Two separate laws with conflicting language intended to govern how school systems carry out mass layoffs have Glynn County Board of Education members scratching their heads about how to implement local policy.

Referred to as reduction in force, of RIF, mass layoffs have become the norm for school systems across the state in recent years as annual budget cuts have taken hold.

Since the 2010 fiscal year, the Glynn County school system has eliminated more than 220 positions due to a general operating budget that has shrunk by more than $20 million during the same period. More than 120 of those positions were teachers.

"It has gotten to the point that we have had to lay off some great teachers," said Hank Yeargan, chairman of the board's policy committee. "We don't want to stigmatize them when trying to get another job."

One of the laws, Senate Bill 153, passed near the end of the most recent session of the General Assembly. The bill revised a previous law requiring clear documentation that the basis for the layoff was reduction in force and not the performance of the teacher.

At the same time, Senate Bill 184, adopted the first day of the session, created a new code requiring local boards of education to consider teacher performance first when determining who to lay off.

Before adopting a local RIF policy, Yeargan wants the Glynn County board to ensure it complies with both laws.

"I want to avoid any unwanted interpretations," Yeargan said.

The Georgia School Boards Association addressed the conflicting laws in a June newsletter.

"The combination of SB 184 and SB 153 leaves school systems in a quandary as to how to comply with both laws simultaneously," the newsletter noted.

Angela Palm, director of the association's legislative services, said the association pushed for Gov. Nathan Deal to veto SB 153 in an effort to avoid confusion.

This is not the first time laws adopted by the General Assembly have created more questions than answers, Palm said.

"Until you have to deal with the workings of the laws, it can be difficult to know what their effects will be," Palm said.

The association has advised local boards to include clear language in their policies that comply with both laws.

Yeargan plans to go over Glynn County's policy in detail with the board's attorney, Andy Lakin, and attorneys with the association before the board votes on it at its next meeting.

The Glynn County school board will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at 1313 Egmont St.

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