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Teachers, principals sue to halt “sham” school closings
UFT-CSA suit seeks injunction on the issue of shuttering and reopening 24 schools
May 7, 2012
The UFT and the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators on May 7 filed suit in New York State Supreme Court to prevent the “sham” closing and restaffing of 24 schools that would be reopened almost immediately in the same buildings and with the same students. The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and injunction that would be in effect until the issue can be resolved through arbitration.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew and CSA President Ernest Logan said: “These ‘sham closings’ are an attempt by the Department of Education to evade its duty to help these struggling schools succeed. We are asking the court to ensure that no final decisions are made on the staffing of these schools, pending an independent review by an arbitrator on the issue of whether the DOE is trying to get around its labor agreements.”
In January Mayor Bloomberg announced that 33 schools would be closed and reopened, generally with new principals and with half the teachers replaced. He said at the time that the step was necessary in order for the schools to be eligible for earmarked federal funds.
Since that time the Department of Education has changed its story several times. It announced that even though the schools would in fact not be eligible for the earmarked federal funds, the “closing” process would go forward. It then reduced the number of schools to 26, and then 24. It also told principals objecting to the loss of half their current teachers that that the number replaced could be less than fifty percent.
The unions’ filing charges that administration officials “have plainly stated that the ‘closing’ of these schools is nothing more than a technicality.”
It said that current contract provisions for replacement of staff do not apply “in the instance of spurious closings, such as those at issue here,” because the Department of Education “changes only the school’s internal identification number.”
The UFT and CSA last week filed grievances with the DOE that accused the department of improperly identifying the 24 schools as “closing.” Unless the DOE agrees that it has improperly identified these schools, the issue will go before an independent arbitrator.
The unions are asking the court to grant a temporary restraining order that would prevent any final personnel decisions in these schools until the arbitrator has ruled on the unions’ contention that the DOE cannot use current contract provisions to restaff the 24 as “closing” schools.