Friday, June 29, 2007
"No confidence" votes, grievance process examined
What is the legal meaning of the recent "no confidence" vote in Superintendent Marie Doyle taken by the Carlisle Teachers Association (CTA)? Why did the CTA take that action rather than follow a formal grievance process?
A "no confidence" vote is largely symbolic, without legal ramifications. Eighth-grade teacher and Carlisle Teachers' Association President Michael Miller said, "We see it as an extraordinary move which is unfortunate, but necessary. Trust and communication were problems in the past, and the Superintendent's actions this spring have made the teachers lose trust in her."
in schools statewide
Examples from other Massachusetts schools show this type of vote does happen in other school districts, and can have an impact. Not all school systems were checked, but an informal Internet search of area newspapers and school committees' minutes shows the following recent events:
The superintendent of the Berlin/Boylston School District, Marcia Lukon, who is leaving the district by her own choice on June 30, was the subject of a "no confidence" vote in 2006.
The Stoughton teachers union voted "no confidence" in former Principal Donna Tanner in November of 2006. The superintendent of schools transferred Tanner to a newly-created position, "Assistant to the Superintendent for Personnel and Curricula."
The teachers union for the Athol-Royalston Regional School District took a vote of "no confidence" in the administration on June 20, in protest over a planned cut of over 45 teaching staff. There has been no resolution to date.
The Salem teachers union and the Salem School Committee both passed votes of "no confidence" in the former principal, Kiki Papagiotas. In addition, the Salem School Committee was named in a complaint to the Massachusetts Labor Relations Committee by the teachers union. Papagiotas resigned.
The Ottoson Middle School teachers union recently voted "no confidence" in Arlington's superintendent, Nate Levenson, after he had failed to renew Principal Stavroula Bouris' contract. The situation was resolved in April when the School Committee announced Bouris' contract would be renewed.
The teachers union in the town of Harvard stalled over contract talks, and passed a vote of "no confidence" in the Harvard School Committee on December 11, 2006. Contracts were settled in June.
has many hearings, appeals
At the June 20 Carlisle School Committee meeting, parent Alex Krapf wondered why the CTA did not file a formal grievance with Superintendent Doyle. The Massachusetts labor grievance process is not a simple complaint tool. It is a formal legal procedure used by unions to notify management that a labor practice has been violated. It is a lengthy process used in cases where management has illegally denied union members of their rights.
Under Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 150E grievances can be filed for such violations as coercing employees, interfering with a union, discriminating in hiring or retaliation against an employee who has made a complaint. It is then the Labor Relations Commission's job to investigate the grievance and, if probable cause is found, to order a hearing. Any party involved in the grievance has the right to file a response within five days. All parties have the right to appear in person at the hearing, at which the Labor Commission will decide whether a violation has occurred. The Labor Commission can order remedies, or dismiss the complaint. All parties have ten days to request a second hearing. If, at the second hearing, the Labor Commission finds a violation has occurred, it can order actions such as "the reinstatement with or without back pay of an employee discharged or discriminated against," the law says. The issue can then be referred to an appeals court.
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