Proposal Stiffens Teacher Grievance Process

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The Payson school board will hear a first reading of a policy revision that will change the way teachers and staff can file grievances against administrators.

The policy change --hich will be read at the Sept. 27 meeting --lso will alter the circumstances under which employees may be subject to disciplinary action, including suspension and dismissal.

Because the revision proposals are a first reading, the board will not take action. After the second reading, the board could vote to institute the revisions into district policy.

The proposed changes include adding a provision that discipline, suspension or dismissal are not eligible for grievance.

A teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, pointed out that most grievances are usually the result of discipline the staff member considered unjust, unfair or unwarranted.

Another addition of PUSD policy states that if staff or teachers file what are considered "false or bad faith" grievances, that could "serve as grounds for employee discipline." The school board has the authority to determine if the grievance is false or in bad faith.

If it is determined that a teacher knowingly or intentionally filed a false grievance or acted in bad faith, they are subject to disciplinary action.

Arizona Education Association Organizational Consultant Tom Kennedy said the AEA opposes the policy changes.

"Grievances are a way of solving disputes ... to put barriers up will only create more disputes," he said. "The process should be opened up rather than closed down."

Rim Country Middle School teacher Louis Crabtree says that before any changes in the grievance process are made, "the board, in the interest of fairness, needs to listen to points of teachers."

PUSD Superintendent Herb Weissenfels said the policy revisions were the result of information learned at a recent School Board Association law conference.

"That's how (the changes) came about," he said.

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