RIF recommendation nixed

by C.F. David

In a unanimous decision on Thursday night, the Keyes School Board made the decision not to remove FACS, (Home Economics), teacher Tangee Cayton with a Reduction In Force, (RIF), as Superintendent Ed Turlington had recommended.

Turlington had approached the board with the recommendation, using a projected potential shortfall in funds coupled with a state mandate that no school finish its year in the red.

Turlington pointed out that Keyes, being involved in tax protests with Colorado Interstate Gas and Nathaniel Energy, plus a loss of $40 thousand in state aid, had the potential of being in the red for the 2005-06 school year unless measures were taken.

Turlington also pointed out that he had projected a drop in enrollment as part of his decision.

Turlington told the board that he believed the RIF was the best way to cut costs and retain the best education for the students.

Turlington then pointed out that retirement, and attrition were not the answer, and that Cayton wasn't eligible to bump a teacher with less tenure.

Turlington admitted that the figures he used to make his decision were by no means final and rock solid, but like any other administrator he was trying to make a decision by using a budget.

Cayton, is a teacher with 17 years experience and a master's degree in counseling; Turlington had, when he informed her of the impending RIF, told her he would increase her counseling services from one to three hours a day.

Turlington testified that Cayton was an excellent teacher and that the FACS class, (an elective course of study), was an excellent class and if possible to continue the course a class that each student could profit from.

Again and again Turlington insisted that his decision to RIF Cayton was a purely fiscal concern.

“This is not about any complaints...there were none, it's a good program. She is a competent teacher, I've given her several evals over the last three years; she's a good teacher,” Turlington said.

Turlington told the board that the school stood to lose about $3 million in Advalorem tax base and that cutting service personnel, (janitors, cooks, etc.) wasn't the answer, that the dollars weren't there.

“That wouldn't give us enough dollars,” he insisted.

Turlington pointed out that FACS, though a good class with 22 students enrolled junior high to high school, was still an elective, unneeded for graduation.

Cayton's attorney Jennifer Burchett asked Turlington what kind of teacher her client was, and he repeated, “Mrs. Cayton is a good teacher, it's a good program for the kids. But, state law says you've got to balance the budget. If the problem isn't solved, the state school board can pull my certificate or replace the school board,” he said.

“These RIFs are not good; they aren't good for the school; not good for the kids,” he added.

“I told Tangee we needed to pray about it, and hope the money came in.

Burchett then asked Turlington if he was aware that Oklahoma legislators had earmarked $144 million above last year's dollars for education, and that education would soon be funded at an all time level and perhaps his decision to RIF was premature.

Turlington resonded that he was aware, but pointed out that all the dollars would be doled out for several different educational programs.

Burchett then asked Turlington if he had discussed the possibility of the RIF outside scheduled board meetings, Turlington responded that he had handed out information at the end of meetings but hadn't discussed the information outside scheduled meetings.

Turlington then insisted that one reason he was trying to act quickly on the RIF was to give Cayton an option to find full-time help elsewhere if she felt it necessary to leave.

Burchett then asked if anyone had offered to resign.

Turlington then replied that teachers Darus and Bette Hanes had offered to retire if it would help the schools problems. But he pointed out that finding a math teacher with Mr. Hanes skills would be nearly impossible in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

Burchett then asked if he had polled the community on their feelings about the proposed RIF, and Turlington replied that he didn't feel it necessary, and assumed 90 percent of the people would say to keep Cayton.

Burchett then asked Turlington about the new football program, and it's salaries of more than $5 thousand for extra coaching duties by some of the teachers.

“Wouldn't you agree that several small cuts would've been the better way to go?” Burchett said.

Burchett then pointed out that it was at Turlington's encouragement that Cayton returned to school to get her master's degree, “Wouldn't you agree that the loss of Mrs. Cayton would be a loss of the district's investment? she added.

“Are we going to be in the red this year,” asked Board member J.C. Moser .

“No, it's going to be close,” Turlington replied.

“I'm not getting my certificate pulled because I didn't recommend this. But anything can change, you were $69 thousand in the red when you hired me,” Turlington added.

Under questioning by her attorney Cayton pointed out that in 2003-04, Turlington had made FACS a required course of study, but that in 2004-05 had scheduled classes opposite it, thereby dropping the enrollment in the classes.

Cayton called some witnesses. One witness, Lynn Jones testified that Cayton's class and her teaching had taught her daughter such things as balancing a checkbook.

“Boise City has a Life-styles class,” Jones pointed out, but then admitted that Yarbrough doesn't offer any such class.

“Kids need this background and it's a class I'd like to see kept,” Jones added.

Turlington's attorney, Bo Rainey, quickly countered by asking Jones if she was familiar with school financing.

She admitted she wasn't.

“Have you read the recommendation? Rainey asked.

Jones again replied that she hadn't.

Another witness, Teri Thurmon pointed out that she felt personally the FACS class should hold more weight than a sport or drama.

Through his attorney, Turlington pointed out that drama is a required Humanity.

When her turn came, Cayton was asked why she should even want to stay.

“I'm sorry,” she replied, “This is home. I haven't made it 60 miles out of the Panhandle. It's a community I know and love. I have four children, this is the only school they've ever known.”

Asked if she left, would her children also leave a school that was losing students, Cayton replied, “They need to go with me. Family is important to me, and if they stayed they'd become latchkey kids. I don't want that.”

Asked by her attorney if she felt Turlington's decision to RIF was vindictive, Cayton replied, personally, I've felt that.

Asked if she had a disciplinary proceeding, she replied, “Not formerly.”

The board adjourned to executive session, made their decision and reconvened to make the official vote.

Boise City News
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