For the first time since PERA and SB 7 were adopted, a court has decided whether an alleged procedural defect in the evaluation process could be used to invalidate a RIF.
In Holmes, et al., v. Board of Education of Belvidere Community Unit School District No. 100, successfully defended by Stan Eisenhammer and Jeff Goelitz, the issue for the court was whether an allegedly missing component of an evaluation invalidated the entire evaluations of tenured teachers who were placed in Group 2. If the evaluations were incomplete, plaintiffs argued, they should not have been placed in Group 2 or subsequently RIF’d.
Based on two critical points, the court upheld the district’s actions. First, the allegedly missing component was not specifically required by statute or any ISBE regulations; it was required only by the district’s evaluation plan. As a result, the court recognized that there was no legal violation.
Second, the court noted that the evaluation plan was structured such that, even if the plaintiffs had all received an Excellent rating on the allegedly missing component, that component could not have improved their overall ratings. Therefore, the allegedly missing component had no effect on the teachers’ overall ratings or the validity of their evaluations. Because of these two factors, the evaluation ratings were allowed to stand, and the court concluded that the teachers were properly placed in Group 2 and that their resulting RIF was valid.
The court’s decision exemplifies the importance of school districts’ evaluation plans and rating systems, and the importance of following them precisely. The Plaintiffs have appealed the trial judge’s decision, so we will keep you apprised of the outcome on appeal.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about evaluation plans, evaluations, or RIFs, please contact Stan Eisenhammer, Jeff Goelitz, Ellen Rothenberg, Tina Christofalos or Terry Hodges.