I wanted to share this letter that was sent to all staff this morning.
Fall has finally arrived in Houston, and with this cold front comes the realization that we are getting close to the holiday season. Throughout the excitement of family and friend gatherings, let us all remember to continue to practice safe and healthy practices by wearing our masks, continuing to social distance and washing hands/using hand sanitizer properly.
Let me remind you that today is the very last day to vote early. Those who have not voted may vote on Tuesday, November 3. Please do not forget that, since so many of our facilities will be used as polling locations, November 3 is a student holiday and a non-work day for Alief employees, except those who work 260 days. No matter if you vote early today, or cast your vote on November 3, please be an informed voter on not only the presidential election but also the many local and state elections that are taking place. It is easy for us to become fixated on the presidential race but it is the local and state elections that tend to have the most direct impact on us.
I would also like to remind each of us that we are not permitted to use our positions as public employees to try to influence students, colleagues or community members on any candidate or positon that maybe on the ballot. I realize elections, especially these days, can be controversial and emotional at times. I also realize that there are times it is difficult to recognize the difference between educating and engaging our students in a meaningful discussion about the current events of the day and promoting our own personal beliefs about a candidate or position. We, as educators, have a responsibility to help our students talk about and understand the importance of elections and the importance of being an informed voter among other social issues we all face. This is at the core of our profession. However, I want to encourage all of us to be mindful of this difference and please have these critical conversations and learning moments for students without using our own personal beliefs to come across as an attempt to influence our student’s young minds to think in a particular way. I also encourage each of us to be respectful to each other’s personal beliefs. There is nothing wrong with good healthy conversations with people that might view things differently than we do. Whether it is politics or other social issues, our society has seemed to move to a place that reasonable people cannot disagree and have an “adult” conversation without it impacting relationships or environments. I encourage robust discussions among all of us on the issues of our time. I also encourage each of us to have these discussions in a productive way that will lead to solutions and not additional problems.
I want to share information on a policy change that the Alief ISD administration and Board is considering. Revisions to policy DFBB (Local) were read to the Board during the October 21, 2020 Board Meeting. This was a first reading and will not become official until the Board approves the revisions during an upcoming public Board meeting.
Policy DFBB (Local) focuses primarily on the number of days that the Superintendent or designee can deliver the written notice of proposed nonrenewal to an employee. For many years in Texas, school districts notified employees whose contracts were not being renewed 45 days prior to the last day of instruction.
That length of time was changed from 45 to 10 days during the special session of the 82nd Legislative Session in 2011 when Senate Bill 8 was passed and signed by the governor, thus amending the policy in Chapter 21 of the Texas Education Code. This legislation is intended to provide school districts more time to work with employees with performance issues and help the employee improve. The overwhelming majority of school districts in Texas revised their local district policies to match the wording of the 10-day notification in Chapter 21 of the Texas Education Code.
We feel that revising our local policy to match the State Policy, as most districts have done, benefits all staff members. Instead of having to make the determination to non-renew an employee in January or February, principals and supervisors may now make that determination in April or May. This gives supervisors more quality time to work with employees with performance issues that need to be improved.
These revisions were heavily researched and vetted prior to presenting this to the Board. The Legislative Sub-Committee of the Board tasked Dr. Elizabeth-Veloz Powell and her HR team to obtain feedback from staff members that would be affected by a change in this policy. This work has been going on for close to two years and after all the time spent securing meaningful feedback, we feel it is appropriate to move forward with the discussions.
A HR Advisory Committee was formed and consisted of representatives from our employee organizations (American Federation of Teachers, Texas State Teachers Association and the Association of Texas Professional Educators) well as teachers, principals, and central office support staff. I am proud to say that the recommendation to change the policy from 45 days to 10 days was unanimous among all committee members.
The amended policy language and committee decision was then delivered to the Board Legislative Committee for consideration by the full Board. There will be a second reading at an upcoming School Board meeting for the Board’s consideration. If approved by the Board, the amended policy will go into effect for the 2021-22 school year.
Let me reassure you that revisions to this policy were made with the best interest of all employees in mind. This policy change provides significantly more time for supervisors to coach and assist employees before making recommendations regarding contract actions. Please keep in mind that Alief ISD has approximately 3,500 teachers and this policy adjustment will impact less than ½ of 1 percent of all teachers.
I hope this letter provides more information and a better understanding concerning the revisions being considered by the Board regarding Board Policy DFBB (Local).
Please have a great weekend and enjoy this weather!
HD Chambers
Superintendent of Schools
Alief Independent School District