During Personnel Season this year, which is coming to a close, there were a number of questions and concerns during the reduction-in-force and transfer process regarding how to handle needed personnel changes for the 2015-16 school year in the Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher (“ECCAT”) classification. This was the first personnel season (and school year) for the ECCAT classification. Those questions included issues related to the calculation of seniority, whether there were multiple ECCAT classifications depending on temporary vs. permanent, multiclassification issues (ECCAT/Aide), issues relating to the impact of the grandfather provision, etc. As you will recall, last year the Legislature amended W. Va. Code 18-5-18, and created the ECCAT classification(s), providing as follows:

Beginning July 1, 2014, any person previously employed as an aide in a kindergarten program and who is employed in the same capacity on and after that date and any new person employed in that capacity in a kindergarten program on and after that date shall hold the position of either Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher - Temporary Authorization, Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher - Permanent Authorization or Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher - Paraprofessional Certificate. Any person employed as an aide in a kindergarten program that is eligible for full retirement benefits before July 1, 2020, may remain employed as an aide in that position and may not be required to acquire licensure pursuant to this section.

This year, on March 9, 2015, the West Virginia Legislature passed HB 2702HB 2702 has completed legislation and is awaiting the Governor’s signature, and once approved, the effective date is upon passage. The purpose/intent of HB 2702 is to redefine the service personnel class titles of ECCAT; to protect certain aides from reduction-in-force or transfer to create a vacancy for a less senior ECCAT; to require an aide who becomes employed as ECCAT to hold certain multiclassification status; and including ECCAT in same classification category as aides. The legislation amends W. Va. Code 18-5-18 in that it will now provide the following:

Beginning July 1, 2014, any person previously employed as an aide in a kindergarten program and who is employed in the same capacity on and after that date and any new person employed in that capacity in a kindergarten program on and after that date shall hold the position of aide and either Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher I, Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher II or Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher III. Any person employed as an aide in a kindergarten program that is eligible for full retirement benefits before July 1, 2020, may remain employed as an aide in that position and shall be granted an Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher permanent authorization by the state superintendent pursuant to section two-a, article three, chapter eighteen-a of this code.

Further, HB 2702 amended W. Va. Code 18A-4-8 and will provide for the following separate classifications (as such it will now be necessary to have separate seniority lists for each classification):

(36) "Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher I" means a person who does not possess minimum requirements for the permanent authorization requirements, but is enrolled in and pursuing requirements; 

(37) "Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher II" means a person who has completed the minimum requirements for a state-awarded certificate for early childhood classroom assistant teachers as determined by the State Board; 

(38) "Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher III" means a person who has completed permanent authorization requirements, as well as additional requirements comparable to current paraprofessional certificate;

In addition, HB 2702 amended W. Va. Code 18A-4-8 to provide the following (clarifying the grandfather provision relating to the reduction-in-force process and the requirement that ECCAT positions be multiclassified):

(t) Any person employed as an aide in a kindergarten program who is eligible for full retirement benefits before the first day of the instructional term in the 2020-2021 school year, may not be subject to a reduction in force or transferred to create a vacancy for the employment of a less senior Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher; 

(u) A person who has held or holds an aide title and becomes employed as an Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher shall hold a multiclassification status that includes aide and/or paraprofessional titles in accordance with section eight-b of this article.

Lastly, HB 2702 provides that pay grades found in W. Va. Code 18A-4-8 for the ECCAT classification will be as follows:

Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher I: E 

Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher II: E 

Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher III: F (it should be noted that new provisions discussed above provide that any person employed as an aide in a kindergarten program that is eligible for full retirement benefits before July 1, 2020, may remain employed as an aide in that position and shall be granted an Early Childhood Classroom Assistant Teacher permanent authorization).