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RIF Assistance at Your Fingertips

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Legal
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March 1, 2017

Amid budget cuts—and probably more budget cuts—OPSRC would like to remind you that RIF assistance is available to our member schools. Now that springtime is just around the corner, it’s a good time to begin thinking in terms of whether you need to implement a RIF for the ensuing fiscal year, and if so, what you need to do. Some RIFs are quite complex, requiring a lot of thinking through and strategizing.  The more time you have, the better.

As you begin looking at staffing needs versus budget constraints, you’ll develop a clearer picture of how deeply your cuts will be. At the point when you’re ready to begin talking positions, 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 of which you’re not aware. 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.

When to RIF? You are likely aware that a RIF cannot be done mid-year for certified employees. Any RIF of positions in that category will have to be for FY 2017-2018. However, if you need to conduct a mid-year RIF for non-certified positions, you may do this at any time.

How to RIF?  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 to completely eliminate them. This worked out better for that particular district because the district was able to save jobs. The employees affected weren’t thrilled, but at least they were still employed.

What kind of paperwork is involved?  You must provide the following:

  • Notice to the employees in the affected positions, which lets them know they’re being recommended for RIF and what their due process rights are
  • A 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

Again, we’re here to help you get through this as smoothly as possible. I have 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 or avail yourself of the resources we have, please call me directly at 405.520.9680.

About the Author

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Terri Thomas

Director of 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) from 1999 to 2015 and represents many school districts throughout all parts of the state.

It’s no accident that Terri wound up practicing school law.  She grew up in the school business. Terri’s father, the late Howard Thomas, was a school superintendent for 25 years in several Oklahoma school districts, including Pauls Valley—Terri’s hometown—and Ardmore. After graduating from Pauls Valley High School, Terri received her bachelor’s degree in Finance from Southern Methodist University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

She and her husband, Norman Thompson, and their 8-year old daughter, Mary, reside in Oklahoma City.