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Valley attorney argues factor used to determine Gilbert layoffs could violate teachers' rights

Gilbert Public Schools officials spelled out how it was determined which teachers would be laid off. A Valley attorney says part of it may violate teachers' rights.

PHOENIX — A drop in student enrollment is costing 152 teachers in Gilbert their jobs.

Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board made the district’s reduction in force official at a meeting Tuesday night.

But there are some concerns over how it was decided who would lose their jobs.

District had principals grade teachers on a rubric 

In the board meeting Tuesday night, district officials laid out how teachers were chosen to be laid off in the reduction in force.

Part of the process was having principals use a rubric to grade all faculty in the district. The rubric included different categories in which teachers would get points assigned to them for being “highly effective,” “effective” or “ineffective."

“The rubric didn’t seem to take into account a worldwide pandemic,” Angela Philpot said.

Philpot is one of the 152 certified staff in Gilbert Public Schools being laid off.

After every teacher was evaluated, it was determined what the cutoff score would be for those who would have to be let go.

“I am going to ask you for my rubric to find out where I fell short this year as an educator,” another Gilbert teacher said while addressing the board Tuesday.

Valley attorney: Part of rubric could violate teachers' rights 

One piece of the rubric would label a teacher “ineffective” if a teacher “discusses district/school, decisions/concerns publicly.”

“When I see their criteria for how they determine who is effective and ineffective it causes me deep-seated concerns,” Valley attorney Tom Ryan said.

Ryan said the rubric could violate teachers' rights.

“It’s a gross violation of teachers’ First Amendment rights that they cannot publicly discuss the decisions made by the school board or the concerns they have about what the school board is doing,” Ryan said.

Ryan added the entire rubric appears broad.

“Anybody could fit into this if they want them to,” Ryan said. “It really is a horribly designed standard and very unfair to the teachers.”

District says the piece of the rubric relates to GPS policies

12 News asked Gilbert Public Schools about this piece of the rubric. A district spokesperson said it relates to staff conduct policies.

The Gilbert Education Association President Amber Franco said the GEA would be making sure the reduction in force was done correctly.

Franco added she’s asking the Arizona Education Association’s legal team about the piece of the rubric in question.

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