In 2006, the PCSSD entered into a binding written contract with PACT in which the board agreed to negotiate a new contract for teachers with PACT as the teachers’ representative. That agreement was approved by the board and PACT and was signed by the Board President and the PACT President. That written agreement remains in effect today.
On December 8, 2009 the District breached the written agreement that it had with its teachers. It refused to honor the commitment it made when it signed the agreement. PACT expects the District to honor its written obligations and is extremely disappointed that the District chose to breach the written agreement. When one party to a written agreement refuses to honor the terms of an agreement, our court system provides the means by which the agreement can be enforced.
The signed written agreement between PACT and the District from 2006 that is still in effect today sets out the procedures that both parties must follow to ensure that PACT and the District will arrive at a new contract for the teachers. It provides that the existing contract, which contains PACT’s recognition clause, will remain in place until a new one is negotiated.
Until approximately midnight on December 8th, the District honored this existing binding agreement from 2006 by negotiating a new agreement for the teachers with PACT. The board’s paid representative negotiated for the board and a tentative agreement was presented to the board for ratification on December 8th. If the board did not like the tentative settlement agreement, even though it was negotiated by its own paid negotiator, it did not have to ratify the tentative agreement.
The existing written agreement between PACT and the District provides an orderly method for the parties to resolve their differences. Why the board decided not to honor its written agreement with PACT and instead decided to breach the agreement thereby causing a lawsuit to be filed remains a mystery. All of the current distractions to the educational process would be absent if the board had just honored its binding written negotiations agreement with PACT.
Hopefully, the following timeline will help to clarify further:
April 29, 2009 – December 4, 2009 – Professional negotiations between PACT and the PCSSD School Board
December 4, 2009 – Tentative settlement agreement reached by both parties
[Chief Negotiators for both parties agreed to and signed-off on all tentative agreements (TAs). The first TAs were agreed to and signed by both parties on 7/14/09; after months of discussion, salary and insurance TAs were agreed to and signed by both parties on 12/3/09; the last item agreed to and signed by both parties on 12/4/09 concerned final arbitration within the grievance procedure – a TA in which PACT reluctantly agreed with the board’s position].
December 6, 2009 – PACT ratifies settlement agreement
December 7, 2009 – Possible 7:00 pm emergency board meeting to ratify settlement agreement with PACT and PASS
[At 5:00 pm, Linda Paladino (Secretary to the Acting Superintendent) informed the PACT President that there was no quorum for the 12/7/09 meeting because only 3 board members stated that they would attend. Ms. Paladino told the PACT President that Ms. Williams, Mr. Vasquez, and Mrs. Sawyer had all replied that they would attend; Mr. Wood, Mr. Gililland, and Mrs. Tatum replied that they would not attend; and, Mr. Clark never returned her call].
December 8, 2009 – Board schedules 5:30 pm emergency meeting to ratify contracts with PACT and PASS
• This meeting was suspiciously postponed and the board moved directly to its 6:00 pm regular monthly meeting
December 8, 2009 (continued) – Board holds regular meeting
• During the regular meeting, President Clark kept leaving his seat, going back to the Superintendent’s conference room. He later stated, during the meeting, that Mrs. Sawyer was in the back room and not feeling well so he was taking material to her as the meeting was going on. This was later found to be false in that Mrs. Sawyer had already left and gone home.
• Under the Association Business portion of the agenda, the PACT President expressed her frustration with the board and the “games” that some board members were playing concerning the negotiations process with teachers. She also spoke of the importance of keeping one’s word.
• The PASS President also expressed his frustration with the inaction of the board and, after being interrupted by the Board President and told to wrapup his remarks, the PASS President made a remark that, in effect meant, stop treating us as if we were your children – “your children are at home.” (Mr. Chesterfield was “asked” by security to leave the meeting).
• Mr. Wood stated that he took that as a threat and subsequently made a motion to suspend the rules to decertify PACT and PASS. After discussion and review of board policy, it was determined that 5 votes were needed to suspend the rules and Mr. Wood did not have 4 other votes to accomplish this. It was announced that the board would hold an emergency meeting, immediately following the regular board meeting, to decertify both PACT and PASS.
December 8, 2009 (continued) – Board holds a 10:55 pm emergency meeting to decertify PACT and PASS
• Board President Clark called the emergency meeting to order at 10:55 pm stating that the only item on the agenda was to decertify PACT and PASS. After amending his original motion, Mr. Wood moved to withdraw recognition of the PACT and PASS unions effective immediately. Mr. Gililland seconded the motion. After discussion (the only 2 board members to speak against the motion were Ms. Williams and Mr. Vasquez), Mrs. Tatum called for the question. A roll call vote was taken and the motion passed 4 to 2. Those voting to withdraw recognition were Mr. Gililland, Mrs. Tatum, Mr. Wood, and Mr. Clark (something he gave his word he would never do). Those voting against the motion to withdraw recognition were Mr. Vasquez and Ms. Williams. Mrs. Sawyer was absent. It was approximately midnight when the meeting adjourned.
• The board breached the contract with teachers when it took action to withdraw PACT’s recognition, and by holding an emergency meeting so late in the evening, the public was denied the right to provide input on the issue – especially in light of the fact that the day started with a meeting to ratify the contracts with PACT and PASS.
December 9, 2009 – Board of 4 holds a 2:00 pm emergency meeting
• The PCSSD board of 4 votes to grant the pay raise and increase in the District’s contribution to health insurance that PACT negotiated (contained in the TAs already agreed to and signed by both parties’ chief negotiators and ratified by one party – PACT).
December 9, 2009 – PACT membership meets at 4:30 pm
• PACT membership decides to take accrued leave or personal leave with sub (paid leaves guaranteed in the contract) on Thursday, December 10, 2009 as a show of unity. Teachers follow the established procedure by calling in and/or logging in to AESOP (the substitute calling system). The PACT President notifies the Acting Superintendent of the event so that he can make necessary arrangements to ensure the safety of the students should he decide to open schools.
December 10, 2009 – Approximately 700 PCSSD teachers take accrued leave for personal business. Many attend a fair treatment rally at the District Office.
• While on contractual leave, many PCSSD teachers were not allowed to enter the District Office, park in the District parking lot, and/or stand on District property. Prior to the rally, PACT/AEA contacted the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office and informed them of the event. During the rally, while District security was “told” to make sure teachers were moved to the street, the members of the Sheriff’s Department clarified that it was public property and ensured the safety of teachers. The District banned teachers who were absent during the day from attending after school events. Teachers were told that they would be arrested or escorted off school property if they attended Christmas programs, sporting events, band concerts (to support their students and/or their own children). One RHS teacher went to school to pick-up student papers to grade and the principal had her escorted off campus.
December 10, 2009 – Acting Superintendent Rob McGill sends a memo to the PACT President and an “Employment Fact Sheet” to PCSSD employees
• The Acting Superintendent distributed a fact sheet to all employees stating, among other things, the following: 1) the PACT Contract 06-09 will remain in effect; 2) all contracted employees will receive a 2% raise and an increase in the District’s contribution to health insurance; 3) employees absent from their job due to participation in job action events will not be paid for the day; 4) on the 3rd accumulative day absent due to participation in job action events, the employee will be treated as having voluntarily terminated their employment; and, 5) both certified and support staff employees will form a personnel policy committee.
December 11, 2009 – Teachers return to work from accrued leave
• On Friday, teachers returned to work and attempted to fill-out leave forms (per contractual agreement). Several schools were conveniently “out” of forms or teachers had to request forms from the principal or bookkeeper. Many teachers were interrogated by their principals and told that their leave would be unilaterally changed to “leave without pay.”
December 11, 2009 (continued) – Board of 4 holds another emergency meeting and votes to hire 20 permanent substitutes at $180 per day.
• In addition to hiring 20 permanent substitutes, the board of 4 voted to increase substitute teacher pay in the event of a strike and to give a $50 bonus to every teacher who went to work on 12/10/09 (if determined to be legal). The additional cost to taxpayers is approximately $459,000.
December 15, 2009 – “Sick-out” memo sent to building principals from Deborah Coley, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources.
• Teachers did not participate in a “sick-out” nor were they “on strike.” Despite this, Assistant Superintendent Deborah Coley directed principals and bookkeepers to fill-out payroll reports and charge teachers who were absent on Thursday, December 10, 2009 with leave without pay (code 96). This is, yet another, violation of the contract that remains in effect until a successor agreement is negotiated.
December 15, 2009 – PACT files lawsuit against PCSSD for breach of contract
December 18, 2009 – Board President sends letters to PCSSD teachers, parents, and patrons
• When teachers are being told that there is a shortage of paper for instructional purposes, the Board President spent thousands of taxpayer dollars and commanded hours of time from District employees to distribute his interpretation of the events surrounding negotiations between the Board and PACT. He directed that copies be sent home with students and that the letter be posted on Ed-line as well as on the District website. A memo from Rhonda Harnish, Director of Elementary Education, directs principals to “take appropriate action” against teachers who do not send Mr. Clark’s letter home with all students.
• It seems that the Board President forgot that the board is a corporate body and that no single board member, even the President, has the right to make any decision for the rest of the board. Individual board members have the authority of their office only during legally held meetings, so the board can’t act in any place or in any way other than in such a meeting. In other words, according to the Arkansas School Board Association (ASBA) as well as the PCSSD’s own board policy, the only time board members have any legal power to transact any business is when they meet together in a legally convened session. I do not recall a board meeting during which a letter such as this was addressed much less voted on.
December 18, 2009 – PACT President responds to 12/18/09 letter by Board President Clark
• The PACT President responded to Mr. Clark’s letter. While the points contained in his letter will be left to Judge Fox to decide, the President primarily criticized the fact that it was sent at District expense and he commanded the services of District employees in copying, distributing, and posting his letter.