What is the board’s role when budget reductions will include program and staff reductions, including layoffs? Can the board discuss these items in executive session?

(Updated 1/26/11)  The board does not discuss individuals or positions as part of budget reductions and layoffs. All discussions of program reductions must be held in public session. These are difficult and uncomfortable discussions. Everyone would rather hold them in executive session, however the discussions must be held in public. Discussion of staff reductions must be limited to discussion of the programs and process, not individual staff members.

Here is what the process should look like:

1.    The board should discuss the need for reductions in spending and their impact on the district. Using the goals and priorities of the district, the board should provide direction to the superintendent for programs to be cut. This should be done by voting to give clear direction and authority to the superintendent. The board should not indicate specific positions and there should not be any board discussion of individuals. 
2.    The superintendent and administrators work together to prepare a reduction plan. If this includes layoffs, the specific positions and individuals impacted will be defined by the collective bargaining agreements and worked out by the administration and union leadership.
3.    The administration brings a list of positions to the board for approval. This can be handled as a single agenda item or a consent agenda. There is no discussion of individuals. The board votes to approve the list of positions as long as it meets the direction given in step 1. The board does not get to change the list, these positions are defined by the collective bargaining agreement, statute, OARS and the authority given to the superintendent in step 1.
4.    Following board approval of the positions, staff members individually impacted are notified. Once they have been notified, then the board can be informed by phone, email or as an information item during a public session meeting of the list of names.

See also:  "Do you have any suggestions for tiny districts where there is just one person in an area to be reduced? "

More information on budget reductions including links to OSBA’s Surviving Tough Times Webinar is in OSBA’s Budget Survival Toolkit.

For more information on this question, Ask OSBA.