JETSON LAYOFFS SLATED FOR APRIL 1, 2009
BATON ROUGE, LA – Approximately 42 employees at Jetson Center for Youth in Baker, near Baton Rouge, will be laid off April 1. The downsizing results from the Office of Juvenile Justice’s continued reform, that includes closure of Jetson Center for Youth by June 2009, and the opening of the smaller Capital Area Center for Youth (CACY).
CACY will be a small, regional facility housing a maximum of 99 youth. It will provide a therapeutic environment with a focus on treatment and a balanced educational system designed to meet the needs of youth and reduce recidivism.
OJJ thoughtfully developed a plan that requires a reduction in force. OJJ Human Resources staff met with representatives of the Department of Civil Service to develop a Reduction in Force (RIF) Plan, that was approved by both the Department of Civil Service and the Civil Service Commission.
Below is a brief chronology of OJJ activities:
1. February 3: a General Notice of the proposed RIF was posted for all employees in OJJ/East Baton Rouge Parish
2. February 16: a proposed RIF plan was sent to Civil Service
3. February 16-March 2: interviews were conducted with Jetson educators
4. February 19: individual notices were distributed, with a copy of the proposed plan attached, to all career groups affected by the RIF plan
5. March 4: the Civil Service Commission approved the layoff plan
6. March 12: the process began in which individual memos were distributed, as well as displacement offers, and copies of the approved layoff plan, including the RIF policy and Civil Service layoff rules, to affected staff. The layoff was to be effective March 31, 2009
7. March 20: OJJ requested and received approval from Civil Service regarding the change in the effective date of the layoff
8. March 20: the effective date of the layoff was modified from March 31, 2009 to April 1, 2009 to allow displaced employees another month with benefits
9. March 20: OJJ began to issue notice of the change in date in a revised layoff letter to affected OJJ staff
A separate Reduction in Force plan was developed for education staff, who are unclassified. Those in unclassified positions, which are sometimes used for some jobs for which no Civil Service classified job series is available, are at-will employees who do not have the job protections of the classified force or the tenure rules that affect teachers in school districts. Unclassified personnel may be retained or released and replaced at any time.
Rather than terminate all unclassified education personnel, OJJ worked in collaboration with the Missouri Youth Services Institute (MYSI) to develop a staffing plan to provide appropriate educational services to Jetson youth based on their academic needs, while focusing on a therapeutic environment and a balanced educational system.
OJJ also consulted with several state agencies while developing the reduction in force plan for the education employees to ensure an effective and fair process. These agencies included the Departments of Civil Service, Corrections and Education, and the Attorney General’s Office.
All educators at Jetson, as well as the classified staff, received individual copies of the policy and the Reduction in Force Plan approved by Civil Service. These materials were also posted on the agency’s website and throughout Jetson to ensure transparency and awareness.
Educators were invited and encouraged to apply for the education positions, and were interviewed by a panel.
OJJ, in accordance with the approved RIF plan, coordinated structured interviews with applicants for the education positions. The interview panel included:
• OJJ Assistant Secretary
• OJJ Director of Education
• OJJ General Counsel
• OJJ Human Resources Director
• OJJ Deputy Assistant Secretary for Facilities
• Department of Education Community Representative
In accordance with Civil Service guidelines, the panel objectively scored each applicant based on the criteria contained in the RIF policy. Candidate selection was based on these scores.
The scoring process included the interview by the panel, applicants’ responses to written and oral questions related to service delivery, and consideration of tenure at the facility and education experience. For this detailed process, the RIF Education Policy is posted on the OJJ website, with the Jetson Layoff Schedule, at www.oyd.louisiana.gov
A total of 35 teachers and para-educators was employed at Jetson. OJJ developed a staffing pattern based on the current capacity of the facility and the educational needs of youth. The RIF plan included layoffs of 13 teachers and nine para-educators. The new staffing pattern called for nine certified teachers, two para-educators, one physical education teacher, and one vocational teacher, totaling 13 positions. All current education employees were able to apply and interview for these positions. The panel interviewed 24 teachers and 11 para-educators over a period of four days.
“Our staff acted with integrity and compassion for all employees impacted by the RIF,” said Deputy Secretary Dr. Mary Livers. “In fact, when staff realized that the laid-off employees could receive another month of benefits if their end date was changed from March 31 to April 1, I immediately approved this modification.”
“We have gone above and beyond all requirements to ensure that the impacted employees receive every possible concession and extension of courtesy, as our entire agency experiences this transition,” Livers continued. “We remain empathetic to their circumstances and will continue to provide any possible resource to ease the tension, including offering a critical incident stress debriefing over the next several days, as well as the option to accept paid administrative leave effective March 25-April 1.”
“While this layoff presents a difficult situation for everyone in OJJ, we are moving forward with the mandated reform and meeting our mission as we continue to prioritize the needs of youth in our care and custody,” Livers said.