Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Residency Requirements a Bigger Problem Than They Thought

Last week I wrote about the County Commission's alleged solution to the difference between the lack of a residency requirement in MCS and the absolute County Charter-required residency requirement in SCS.

I don't take any pleasure from seeing our community leaders dig in their heels and disagree with each other in prolonged and uncivil arguments.  But this discussion is unfolding the way that it should - people have different opinions on whether the Shelby County residency requirement is appropriate at all, and whether it should apply to incoming MCS teachers.  And it's been more or less civil.  These are big enough issues that it's a good thing that our elected officials air their opinions on this, and that it take some time to figure out a solution.  Here's Bill Dries' coverage on the topic.  Even if I don't agree with where the County Commission comes out, I'm glad to see some solid governing take place.  You know, even if I think the alleged solution is not much of a solution and may not be legal.

The alleged solution - giving MCS teachers five years to come into compliance - has survived its second reading.  But we must take it as encouraging that part of that discussion is about whether existing Shelby County employees have complied with this particular condition of employment.

Turns out that I need to acknowledge that I may have spoken too soon about how current, post-1986 SCS employees were circumventing the rule.  I assumed, apparently incorrectly, that employees who were not in compliance with the rule were being sneaky about it.

Today, we get word from the SCEA President, Sammy Jobe, that there are likely a fair number of teachers - he estimates 300 - that live outside of Shelby County.  [Update:  here's the latest article with SCS confirming that it knows of 169 teachers living outside of Shelby County.] That's one thing - that's a higher number than I would have guessed.  The other thing is that SCS employees were apparently allowed to move out of Shelby County with the knowledge and consent of SCS administrators (Update:  and possibly Board members, according to the latest article].  Jane Roberts reports on SCS teachers who advised administrators of impending moves out of Shelby County, and were apparently given the go-ahead.

This is a major problem.  Not only does it undermine the argument made by County Commissioner Terry Roland (and others) that if some people (SCS) have to abide by this rule, all people (MCS) should have to abide by this rule - but it raises the specter of discipline of administrators who willingly failed to require compliance with this residency requirement.  It's one thing for County Commission Chairman Mike Ritz to put out the call for a review of compliance in County departments - we're now likely looking at a need for verification of residency for ALL county employees.  It wouldn't be fair to single out SCS employees for across-the-board compliance with this disclosed and known condition of employement, when there may well be other County departments with similarly lax enforcement of this rule.

In the spirit of fairness, we probably should just grandfather the MCS employees in. 

And with regard to the County employees, SCS or not, who for some reason have fallen out of compliance with this known and disclosed condition of employment - I'm not convinced those folks should similarly be grandfathered in.  Those should be examined one by one, to determine if the failure to comply is the result of willful non-compliance (sneakiness in the form of failing to disclose the actual residential address) or of administrative laziness (sneakiness in the form of choosing to believe that the plain language of the condition of employment just doesn't apply to "me" and my boss said it was "okay").

If we're going to require people to follow the rules, we should actually require people to follow the rules. 

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