Cleveland Teachers Union wins arbitration ruling, teachers won’t have to reapply for jobs

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Eugene Sanders met with parents Saturday

More than 600 teachers at 22 Cleveland public schools will not have to reapply for their jobs.

An arbitrator ruled Wednesday evening that the teacher contract prohibits schools Chief Executive Eugene Sanders from implementing that key part of his transformation plan, which will launch in August. The decision is final.

“The Cleveland Teachers Union has always been willing to partner with the district on the implementation of reform,” CTU President David Quolke said in a prepared statement. “This decision does not derail the transformation plan, but it does help to ensure a smoother school opening for Cleveland’s students.”

A news release from the district said the decision denies it the “ability to ensure that the right teachers are assigned to school models that align best with their skills and competencies.”

“While we are disappointed at the arbitration ruling, we remain unwavering in our commitment to do whatever it takes to carry out the goals of the academic transformation plan,” Sanders said in the release.

The plan, approved by the school board in March, aims to create school-by-school reform, offer more education options for families and demand more accountability of employees.

The 14 elementary and eight high schools had been identified as poor performers, mostly based on low test scores. Sanders wanted the power to handpick their staffs over the summer. Teachers who were not chosen to remain in the targeted schools would have been assigned elsewhere in the district.

But the contract has a step-by-step procedure that must be followed when making changes in problem schools. Ultimately, that can result in what’s called reconstitution, in which a new principal, parents and a union representative assemble a new staff after interviewing teacher applicants.

Changing the assignment system is one of many issues on the table in contract negotiations going on now. The current agreement officially expired Wednesday, though its terms remain in effect.

In the meantime, the district will start making changes in 12 of the targeted schools. They’ve recently been awarded a total of about $9 million in federal School Improvement Grants for the coming school year, with two more years of similar funding to follow.

But the money comes with strings attached, leaving a huge question mark over exactly how staffing changes will be accomplished.

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