Hartford, Teachers Union Told To Work Out Layoff Bumping Dispute
By GRACE E. MERRITT
April 08, 2010
The State Board of Education refused on Wednesday to step into the middle of a dispute over layoff rules between Hartford teachers and the city school board, and instead urged both sides to work out their differences.
"I just hope all parties can come together and come up with a solution that's in the best interest of the children," said board member Theresa Hopkins-Staten.
Both sides said after the meeting that they would be willing to talk.
"I think it was a fair proposal and obviously I'm always open for discussion," said Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers. "This was never discussed prior to this."
At issue is Hartford Superintendent Steven Adamowski's proposal to change the way the district handles teacher seniority during layoffs. Now, a teacher targeted for layoff at one school can "bump" a teacher with less seniority at any school.
Under Adamowski's plan, a teacher or administrator targeted for layoff could bump only a person with less experience within the same school. The idea is to promote stability and prevent Hartford's 19 specialty schools and theme academies from losing large numbers of specially trained teachers.
"The impact of the bumping we have had has been very detrimental to students, teachers and administrators," Jill Cutler-Hodgman, chief human relations officer for Hartford schools, said after Wednesday's meeting. "Teachers that are happy and successful and connecting with students are getting bumped, sometimes by a person coming from another school who didn't want to leave their old school and isn't necessarily happy to be there."
Hartford schools, facing a $15 million budget gap, are preparing to lay off as many as 92 employees, including 49 teachers, spokesman David Medina said.
Union leaders say Adamowski's plan would unfairly bump experienced teachers, pigeonhole teachers and potentially lead to favoritism and corruption. They said the move is a ploy to save money by getting rid of highly paid teachers.
"The superintendent is using the schoolwide seniority rather than systemwide seniority to close the budget gap on the backs of our teachers," Johnson said.
The policy change also would violate the collective bargaining agreement and tenure laws, union leaders said.
While teachers are willing to discuss the issue, they aren't willing to reopen the contract, which is in force for another year. Johnson pointed out that the existing contract is designed to help the school reform effort in Hartford and that teachers had agreed to work a longer school day.
To assist in the discussion, the State Board of Education offered to set up a separate meeting for all sides to discuss the issue and may vote at its next meeting May 5.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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