School board left to hear greivances

Friday, October 23, 2009

The director of schools is gone, but the school board is still dealing with the after-effects of decisions he made, which have led employees to file grievances.

Effective July 1, former director of schools Stan Curtis transferred Michael Frey, a tenured teacher who taught physical education at Westhills Elementary, to the job of supervisor of transportation. Frey has a master's degree in administration and supervision, and is reported to be doing a "commendable" job at the bus garage.

At the school board's October meeting on Monday, Miley Durham of the Tennessee Education Association came to speak on Frey's behalf. Durham told board members that Frey was not being paid according to the schedule for supervisors, and asserted that he should be, since he is now the direct supervisor of 50 employees and 41 buses.

The board's attorney, Sam Jackson, countered by saying that Frey's current position requires no license and therefore the negotiated contract, and its salary scales, does not apply to him.

Durham also said that Frey was worried about maintaining his teaching license, and wants to take advantage of professional development opportunities in education. Frey's teaching license is valid from 2006 to 2016, and, in order for it to be renewed, he has to teach for five of those 10 years.

"I'd have to look at those requirements," said Jackson. "It seems like he's saying he has to teach two more years before 2016. It's not an issue until 2013."

"To me that's a precarious position," said board member Craig Michael. "What are some scenarios to be considered?"

"Ultimately," Jackson said, "The director of schools has the authority. The board has no power - it's a decision of the director. As far as the board's concerned, there's no remedy for you. The only thing the board can do is set the salary for that position, and that's already been done."

Frey's salary could not be reduced when he was transferred to the transportation position, so he started the job making considerably more than the former supervisor, Glen Ezell. Then the board decided that supervisor of transportation was a 12-month position, so Frey is now getting 12 paychecks on the tenured teachers' salary scale instead of 10.

The school board heard about other grievances from the Marshall County Education Association, represented by Brenda Brown and Wanda Odum, co-chairs of the MCEA's professional rights and responsibilities committee.

The two women asked the board to revisit Article 18 of the contract, which deals with the posting of positions. The MCEA asserts that some positions (like the transportation supervisor) were filled without being posted. "Follow the contract," they urged the board.

"The board has no power to hire, fire, or transfer employees," Michael pointed out. "We have one employee, the director. Therefore, we are powerless to act upon your grievance."

"You can control the director," Jackson reminded the board. "He's the only one with power to hire, fire, and non-renew."

Brown and Odum also brought up Article 23, insurance. The contract between MCEA and the Board of Education was ratified in August, and Article 23 specifies a dollar amount that will be paid toward teachers' health insurance. So far, the teachers' August and September paychecks have not included the agreed amount.

Chairman Mike Keny asked the MCEA to bring Article 23 back to the November meeting and they agreed. Information about the article had inadvertently been left out of the "Board Book," and members were unprepared to discuss it.

Towards the end of the meeting, during New Business, Odom stood up in the audience and asked for "a clarification of your decision on the insurance thing."

"We need a decision in writing according to the contract," she said.

"We need to respond in writing within 10 days," Michael added.

"Yes," said Keny, "We need to get back together."

The school board agreed to hold a special called meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, to formulate a response to MCEA, among other things.