Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Arbitrator slams Jefferson School Board for layoffs

In a sharply worded decision, an arbitrator ruled yesterday that the Jefferson Parish School Board wrongly fired 50 teachers based solely on one performance evaluation, while claiming that it was instead a reduction-in-force layoff.

Arbitrator James Sherman minced no words in his May 28 ruling that the Board “cynically and improperly” mislabeled the discharges, based on a single sub-optimal performance appraisal, as layoffs. “They did not get what they were entitled to…Instead, they got the shaft,” Sherman wrote.

He went on to say, “You can call it a layoff, but if it looks like a discharge, walks like a discharge and quacks like a discharge, then it is not a layoff. It is a discharge. These were not layoffs. They were discharges for unproven causes.”

Jefferson Federation of Teachers President Meladie Munch said, “The Jefferson Parish School Board should be collaborating with teachers.  With few exceptions, the best teachers are made, not born. That’s why we need an ongoing professional development program, closely aligned with teacher evaluation and due process, to improve teacher quality.”

Munch said that the arbitrator, in his strong condemnation of the Board, seemed to agree that it was an outrageous misuse of the evaluation system.  Sherman wrote, “The Board transformed the evaluation program into a disciplinary railroad.” 

“I have never seen a ruling that is so vivid and pointed towards a school board. This ruling validates our long-held complaint that the Board has been making bad decisions for students and teachers,” Munch said.

Munch went on to say that the Board is making not just bad decisions, but illegal ones.  This is the second time in two months that the actions of Jefferson Parish School board have been overturned and rejected.  Just last month, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that the school district illegally imposed a furlough day on school employees. 

“We’ve been out in the community talking with parents, business owners, and community groups and listening to their concerns.  We’ve been working toward finding solutions to make schools better,” said Munch. 

However, she continued, “We’ve also been hearing from people that they are concerned with the Board’s bad decisions.  This is another one. They took this callous, illegal act and it impacted numerous employees and families in our parish.  The new board is acting recklessly, irresponsibly and without regard for the law.  And the community is supposed to trust these people to decide what is best for our students and teachers?”

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