School Board Shelves Grievance Policy Talks

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The band of teachers who showed up Sept. 27 at the Payson school board meeting to air their concerns about proposed changes in the district's grievance policy never had the opportunity to speak.

The teachers' group, which included retired Rim Country Middle School teacher Gloria Joe, was told that because it was a special meeting, the board would not receive public input.

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Herb Weissenfels

According to Payson Unified School District business manager Bobette Sylvester, the school board hears such concerns during public comment sessions which are not part of special meetings.

After the teachers were told Monday they could not voice their concerns, the board heard a first reading of the policy revisions on staff grievances and discipline, suspension and dismissal of teachers.

A second reading was originally scheduled for the Oct. 12 meeting. However, yesterday teachers received a district e-mail that said that reading would be postponed until the Nov. 8 meeting.

"This will give those with concerns additional time to review the material, submit written comments to the superintendent and to attend the meeting," the e-mail read.

At the second reading, the board can vote to institute revisions into district policy.

Among the proposed changes is adding a provision that states grievances may not be filed for "discipline suspension or dismissal" reasons. Teachers have expressed concerns that most grievances are usually the result of disciplinary action considered unjust, unfair or unwarranted by a teacher or staff member.

Another change in the policy states that if staff or teachers file what is considered "false or bad faith" grievances, it 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.

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

Tom Kennedy, a consultant for the Arizona Education Association, 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."

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