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R.I. Chief: Districts Must End Seniority Hiring, Transfer

Teachers cannot be hired, transferred, or reassigned based on seniority alone, and districts that continue with those practices are violating state regulations, Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist warned administrators in a strongly worded missive sent last week.

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That means no more job fairs or "bumping" of less-senior teachers, even during layoffs, according to the Jan. 31 letter. Individuals that continue to do so could lose their licenses, while districts that don't obey could lose state aid or be taken to court, the letter says.

(Tip of the hat to the Providence Journal's Jennifer Jordan, who broke the story).

It's the latest policy development in a situation that actually goes back in some ways, to 2009. When Gist arrived in Rhode Island, she interpreted the state's Basic Education Program regulations stating that student learning be at the heart of human-capital decisions to mean that seniority could be only a component in human-resource decisions, not the sole or overriding factor.

According to Jordan's story, the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals has accused Gist of trying to gut collective bargaining through this procedure. Its president says that the BEP rules don't trump staffing policies that have been written into contracts.

Photo credit: Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist addresses lawmakers in the House Chamber at the Statehouse, in Providence, R.I., after being named to the post in 2010. Steven Senne/AP-File

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