In a third successive Arbitration win for CEA, Arbitrator Sandra Mendel Furman has ruled that the District violated a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Union and CCS in November 2020, when it unilaterally reassigned CEA Career and Community Resource Coordinators (CCRCs) to greet students and monitor breakfast and lunch at two District Career Technical Education campuses. As a remedy, the Arbitrator has ordered back pay at the contractual hourly rate for all CCRCs who were unilaterally reassigned.
The District and Union engaged in over 18 sessions of negotiations for a 34-page MOU just prior to the reassignment, including detailed roles and responsibilities for each bargaining unit member during the 2020-2021 School Year. Nevertheless, Arbitrator Furman wrote in her decision that despite both parties’ willingness to be flexible to meet challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, “these changes were done without bargaining with the Union. These requested add-on responsibilities were known while discussions at the table could have occurred.”
CEA President John Coneglio remarked; “It remains our goal to resolve disagreements with CCS informally, but we will not hesitate to enforce our agreements. After a third straight ruling against them, we implore our District to reexamine their decision-making when it comes to following through on their agreements with educators.”
For Immediate Release
Columbus, OH – With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant once again threatening the start of a school year, the Columbus Education Association, the Union representing more than 4,000 educators in Columbus City Schools, is calling for enhanced safety measures to keep schools open to full in-person learning:
- Implement a policy of requiring proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, or weekly testing in lieu of vaccination, for all Columbus City Schools employees. On August 9, the Ohio Department of Health reported that of the 18,662 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Ohio since January 1, 2021, 18,367 (98.4%) have been patients who are not fully vaccinated. The data shows that vaccination remains the best way to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Our union fully supports the National Education Association’s call for such measures and is prepared to sign off on an agreement with our District to implement this policy today.
- Ensure all CCS buildings have proper ventilation. Thanks to federal COVID-19-related grant dollars, CCS has finally committed to providing air conditioning in all school buildings. However, HVAC systems will not be in place at the start of this school year in roughly 10 % of all CCS buildings. CEA calls for the district to provide enhanced ventilation protocols consistent with the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s Tools to Improve Ventilation recommendations updated June 2, 2021, including providing portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems, providing portable fans as recommended, and opening windows where safely possible. In buildings without air conditioning, CEA additionally calls for granting outdoor mask breaks for students and staff in addition to recess, providing cold bottled water, and utilizing heat days when indoor classroom temperature exceeds the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) Technical Manual recommendation of 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Each building without air conditioning has a unique situation. Union members serving on the CEA-CCS Joint Health and Safety Committee will be conducting walkthroughs and securing needed resources at each of these buildings in the first weeks of the school year.
- Allow for learning consistency and maximum flexibility by extending the successful 2020-2021 School Year Memorandum of Understanding between CEA and CCS. We want to ensure that school buildings remain open to full in-person learning. However, it is highly likely that individual classrooms, school buildings, or portions of the district will be required to quarantine for some period during the upcoming school year. Fortunately, CEA and CCS invested more than a month developing a standardized, scrutinized, and ultimately well-tested plan for moving between modes of learning, in the form of our 34-page 2020-2021 School Year Memorandum of Understanding signed in October of 2020. Extending this MOU through the current school year will ensure that learning can continue uninterrupted even when students and educators must quarantine. It also contains important health and safety provisions for students and staff alike. We call on the district to agree to extend its important provisions through this current school year.
“It is critical that we do everything in our power to keep schools open and safe,” said CEA President John Coneglio. “These recommended common-sense safety measures give our students and members the best chance of remaining in classrooms this school year doing what we do best.”
The Columbus Education Association is the union representing more than 4,000 teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors, psychologists, and other education professionals in Columbus City Schools. The Columbus Education Association is a proud affiliate of the Ohio Education Association and the National Education Association.
In a major victory for Columbus students and educators, Arbitrator Sandra Mendel Furman ruled in favor of CEA in decisions on two separate grievances heard in expedited arbitration sessions last week. Furman also ordered remedies for the affected bargaining unit members.
In the first case, the District was ruled to have violated the Master Agreement by assigning more than 150 total students to an art teacher at South High School during the 2019-2020 school year. Arbitrator Furman ruled that the contract language is clear and unambiguous, and that “the phrase found in the [Memorandum of Agreement]: the maximum student load per day will not exceed 150 students is clear on its face”. She further ordered the district to cease and desist from assigning additional students to any high school teachers in the future, except those in computer, physical education and music as specified in the agreement.
In the second case, the District was ruled to have violated the Master Agreement by unilaterally implementing a revised elementary grading policy during the 2020-2021 school year, months after the close of the negotiated grade entry window. In light of the significant extra work elementary teachers were asked to perform on top of their regular duties, Arbitrator Furman not only ordered the district to “cease and desist from making midterm changes in the grading protocol/schedules absent the consent of CEA”, but also ordered CCS to allocate all elementary teachers who spend time revising grades pursuant to the implemented guidance approximately 7.5 hours of additional nonscheduled teaching (unassigned) time during the upcoming school year.
In addition to the remedies ordered to make CEA bargaining unit members whole, the District will be responsible for all costs associated with the arbitration hearing, nearly $3000 a day.
Though CEA made every attempt to resolve these grievances informally, we are satisfied that the arbitrator agreed that the CEA-CCS Master Agreement was violated. We are also pleased that due to our Union’s continued enforcement of our hard-won Master Agreement, high school students will see the smaller class sizes they deserve and elementary students will have the benefit of teachers less burdened with administrative work and able to focus on the classroom. CEA will continue to enforce our various agreements with Columbus City Schools, and awaits a third grievance arbitration decision likely to be published in the fall.