A New York State Supreme Court judge has thwarted Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to shake up the staff at 24 underperforming schools.
On Monday, Justice Joan Lobis upheld an arbitrator’s, Scott Buchheit, decision that the Department of Education violated its contracts with the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the Council of School Supervisors of Administrators (CSA) when it attempted to remove the entire staff at the 24 Persistently Lowest Achieving (PLA) schools and make them reapply for their positions.
Buchheit ruled in June that the hiring and firing decisions at the schools by the city violated their contracts with the teachers’ union. The arbitrator said that since the schools weren’t closing, the city couldn’t invoke an article of the contract that lays out staffing rules for schools that are about to be shut down.
The Department of Education’s (DOE) efforts were supposedly a part of a “turnaround” process to revive the struggling schools and student performance. The city immediately filed a counter lawsuit stating that the arbitrator overstepped his bounds by ruling on the case. Lobis didn’t think so.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew, in a letter to UFT members, celebrated the victory.
“This is a tremendous victory for UFT members in the 24 PLA schools and for our entire union,” wrote Mulgrew. “We stood firm in this fight because we knew, from day one, that the DOE was wrong in its interpretation of our contract and because we could not sit idly by while thousands of good teachers were unfairly forced out of their positions by a mayor intent on maligning our profession.
“We fought for what is right, and today we were successful,” Mulgrew continued. “The DOE has said it will appeal to the Appellate Division, and we will continue to defend your rights. We believe we will prevail on the appeal.”
The city plans on filing an appeal to Lobis’ decision, but the Appellate Division doesn’t sit during the summer so there won’t be any more reversals on staffing decisions in the near future.