School Board Nixes Policy Revisions

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The Payson Unified School District governing board voted 5-0 Nov. 8 not to approve proposed revisions to the current grievance policies.

The changes have been a controversial topic since they were first introduced in mid-September.

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Rim Country Middle School language arts teacher Michelle Gibbar, shown in her classroom helping a student, is the Payson Education Association president who led the opposition of proposed grievance policy revisions.

Teachers attending the board meeting were sent reeling when Superintendent Herb Weissenfels told the audience that some of the wording in the new policies was hazy and he agreed that the district's current policy probably didn't need to be modified.

Payson Education Association members -- led by Arizona Educational Organizational Consultant Tom Kennedy and PEA President Michelle Gibbar -- argued those same points since the changes in policy were first discussed.

According to Gibbar, most teachers were convinced the superintendent supported the changes because he was one of those who proposed them and later defended them against PEA criticism.

Gibbar also said teachers thought the board supported the policy revisions because no apparent opposition was voiced at a first reading of the changes during a Sept. 27 meeting.

Monday, Weissenfels said he had been instructed by the board to make the policy revisions.

Before the board voted on the grievance proposals, a parent, retired educator and Gibbar stood before the members and asked them to reject the changes.

"We would like to work to develop policies and procedures that serve to improve communication rather than break it down," Gibbar said.

With the board's vote, the polices-- which dictate the way employees can file grievances -- will go unchanged.

Gibbar, Kennedy and some teachers are applauding the move as a sign the board and administrators are listening to concerns.

The drive to make changes in the grievance policies started last spring when Rim Country Middle School teacher, Louis Crabtree, filed a grievance against principal Frank Larby, which was almost identical to one filed by science teacher Gloria Joe.

The two similar grievances raised red flags among some district administrators and board members.

During a school board meeting after Joe and Crabtree filed their concerns, "a discussion of frivolous grievances" was held.

Larby said because the matter was a personnel issue, he could not comment by law.

In a PEA statement last month, teachers argued that if administrators believed a grievance was frivolous or false, there are several staff ethics and staff conduct policies in place that would have allowed them to begin disciplinary proceedings against the staff member who filed it.

The PEA also argued that the addition of confusing language would be the only change if the proposals were adopted. The membership's stance during the discussions was that the current policy on grievances is not perfect, but it is far better than the proposed changes.

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