Many of the recent comments in regard to my article “Is Ely Moving On?” referenced the case between the Southbridge Education Association and Southbridge Public Schools involving a dismissed school teacher, Jonathan Jacobson who had not achieved “professional status”.
I have secured a copy of this decision which can be read in its entirety at the above link. The following are direct quotes from the final decision.
A demand for arbitration was filed by the Southbridge Education Association pursuant to the parties’ collective bargaining agreement and in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association. The Southbridge Education Association (Association) and the Southbridge Public Schools (District) jointly selected Mary Ellen Shea to act as single neutral arbitrator in the matter.
Hearings were conducted on July 27 and September 24, 2011, at the District’s central offices in Southbridge, Massachusetts.
I conclude that the issues before me are properly stated as follows:
Is the matter procedurally arbitrable?
If yes, is the matter substantively arbitrable?
If yes, did the School District violate the parties’ collective bargaining agreement in the manner in which it evaluated the Grievant, Jonathan Jacobson?
If so, what shall the remedy be?
Over a two or three week period in April 2010, a number of incidents related to Mr. Jacobson’s efforts to demonstrate how some school rules were not consistently enforced. He had taken it upon himself to monitor daily attendance and tardy records, question the inside suspension director about student discipline, and to remind other teachers about the rules. Things came to a head when Mr. Bishop called him into the office, chastised him, directed him to limit his monitoring of student discipline to the students in his own classes, and said, “I’m the Principal. I decide what goes on. I’m done. This meeting is over.” (p. 38)
The Summative Evaluation Report was the only reason given for not renewing Mr. Jacobson’s employment contract for the 2010-2011 school year: “The reason for this nonrenewal is performance based as demonstrated on your final evaluation.” (p. 53)
The District correctly argues that Mr. Bishop could have let Mr. Jacobson go for any reason. A principal has broad authority when deciding whether to renew the employment contract of a non-PTS teacher. In this case, Mr. Bishop was not required to establish cause, such as poor performance, in order to exercise his authority not to renew Mr. Jacobson. And the principal’s qualitative judgments about a teacher’s performance will rarely be disturbed by an arbitrator. The Principal’s broad authority, however, does not include making inaccurate, misleading, or false statements about a teacher’s performance.The parties’ negotiated teacher evaluation procedures require they be based on “observed, evaluated, and documented performance”. This does not include inaccuracies, misleading or misquoted statements, and it certainly does not include statements that are demonstrably false. (p.54)
Arbitrators generally do not disturb a Principal’s exercise of authority as it applies to non- PTS teacher renewal decision. The exceptions are cases where the evidence establishes harmful procedural errors. See United Educators of Pittsfield, Tammy Byrnie, May 11, 2011, and Education Association of Worcester, James Litton, May 13, 2012. The manner in which Mr. Jacobson was evaluated resulted in procedural errors, but the failure to provide an accurate and honest Summative Evaluation Report was the most egregious and harmful of the errors. The arbitrators in Pittsfield and Worcester reinstated non-PTS teachers whose evaluations were found to be procedurally flawed. Nothing less than reinstatement and a make whole remedy is appropriate under these circumstances.
The School District is hereby ordered to remove every copy of the May 10, 2010, Summative Evaluation Report from any of Mr. Jacobson’s records, and to immediately reinstate Jonathan Jacobson as a Southbridge teacher for one year, and to properly evaluate his performance during that year. The School District is further ordered to make Jonathan Jacobson whole for all lost wages and benefits he would have earned, less any interim earnings and/or income he would not have received but for the improper Summative Evaluation Report. (p. 55)
Again, the full text of the decision can be found HERE.