The Best Laid Plans

New York

With "turnaround" dead in the water, city releases plan details

New York

Union tells turnaround teachers how to return to their positions

In the days that followed an arbitrator's decision to restore teachers' jobs at so-called turnaround schools, teachers and administrators who were once told not to return received almost no guidance from the city on how to reclaim their positions. The city is appealing the arbitrator's decision in court on July 24, arguing that they will not be able to carry out rigorous reform plans for the 24 schools without first replacing many of their teachers. But until then, the staffs of those schools who would have been replaced may reclaim their positions. Yesterday evening, turnaround teachers received the first word on how to do that, in the form of an email from teachers union President Michael Mulgrew. In June, the city asked every teacher at each of the turnaround schools to reapply for their jobs and sit for interviews with a hiring committee under a contractual process called 18-D. State education officials said the city would have to use 18-D if it hoped to hit a federal quota for replacing the teachers (50 percent) and be eligible for millions of dollars in federal School Improvement Grants. The teachers union sued the city to have these plans reversed, and won. Since then, the city has seemingly balked at complying with the arbitrator's ruling. In the days that followed it, teachers said they were confused by the outcome, and administrators who led the turnaround schools until June 30 said they were still being asked to report to new assignments. Despite these complaints, yesterday city officials repeated their promise to comply with the ruling—for now.
New York

City: Turnaround staffing complaints weren't arbitrable after all

The city's case for reinstating thousands of hiring decisions at 24 struggling schools relies on the argument that an arbitrator should never have considered reversing them in the first place. Since January, the city has been trying to carry out a controversial overhaul process known as "turnaround" at the schools. To follow state and federal rules about staffing in turnaround schools, the city had to engineer what amounted to overnight school closures. But the UFT and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators argued that the changes were “sham closures” designed for political ends and so did not qualify the city to use the staffing rules it had invoked. On Friday, an arbitrator, Scott Buchheit, agreed with the unions. The city voluntarily entered into the arbitration process in May at a State Supreme Court judge's urging in order to speed the resolution of the unions' complaint. Buchheit is one of several arbitrators that the city and teachers union have jointly agreed should hear contractual disputes. But in a suite of legal papers filed late Monday, the city suggests that the Buchheit should have declined to consider the unions' complaints. The main petition says that city lawyers argued to Buchheit that he should toss out the grievances before him because the union contracts did not define closure; arbitrators are barred from superseding state laws; and the Department of Education cannot bargain away power over classroom standards. But Buchheit didn't listen, so his ruling should be overturned, the petition says.