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‘Tremendous victory’ for UFT members

Judge upholds arbitrator’s decision thwarting mayor’s staff shake-ups in 24 schools

Sheepshead Bay HS students cross-examine a cutout of Mayor Bloomberg Miller Photography

Sheepshead Bay HS students cross-examine a cutout of Mayor Bloomberg during a mock trial at a March 28 rally protesting plans to close their school and remove half the staff. Similar protests took place across the city after the mayor’s January announcement to close schools on the “persistently lowest-achieving” list and immediately reopen them following a staff overhaul.

In a victory for the UFT, teachers’ positions in 24 “turnaround” high schools are safe after a state judge on July 24 upheld an arbitrator’s decision that the Department of Education could not excess all staff and make them reapply for their positions.

Justice Joan Lobis of the Supreme Court of the State of New York said the arbitrator, Scott Buchheit, was within his authority in his June 29 ruling that the DOE violated the UFT contract and the contract with the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators covering principals and assistant principals when it decided to excess the entire staffs at the 24 schools after the DOE failed to reach an agreement with the UFT on a new teacher evaluation system for those schools.

The UFT and the CSA brought their grievances to arbitration together and the lawsuit brought by the DOE seeking to overturn the decision named both unions as respondents.

Based on the arbitrator’s decision, the current staff in these schools has the opportunity to remain there for the next school year, though those who have found new positions elsewhere are free to go to those new jobs if they choose.

The judge’s decision upheld that remedy. The DOE said it would appeal her ruling.

Educators in the affected schools are being contacted by the DOE to inform them that they have the option to return to their school or the school that replaced it. The 18D process for restaffing the 24 schools — which had begun as the dispute was being arbitrated — was rendered moot.

The UFT and the CSA had argued that the DOE was misusing contract provisions to undertake a wholesale staff shake-up at the 24 schools.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew called the judge’s ruling a “tremendous victory” for UFT members in the 24 schools and for the entire union.

“We stood firm in this fight because we knew, from day one, that the DOE was wrong in its interpretation of our contract — and because we could not sit idly by while thousands of good teachers were unfairly forced out of their positions by a mayor intent on maligning our profession,” he said.

The arbitrator’s decision was fast-tracked to give the schools a decision before the summer break, but the DOE insisted on taking the matter to court after his decision was announced.

Bloomberg announced his plan to close the schools and immediately reopen them in his State of the City speech on Jan. 12.

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