Teacher transfer issue to go before state board

March 03, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Six teachers who were involuntarily transferred last year will have to turn to the state Board of Education to resolve their grievance since a Howard County judge blocked them from going to arbitration.

The teachers were to have gone to arbitration tomorrow, but they will have to wait for the state Board of Education to set a date to hear their appeal. In the Feb. 16 order issued at the request of the county Board of Education, Circuit Court Judge Raymond Kane Jr. deferred to the state board's power and jurisdiction over such matters.

At issue was whether teachers can seek arbitration on the language in their contract that requires Superintendent Michael E. Hickey to give a reason for administrative transfers.

"We're not challenging Hickey's right to move people," said Marius Ambrose, a Howard County Education Association negotiator. "We're simply asking him to give reasons."

The teachers who sought the arbitration, Brad Miller, Geraldine Willis, Carla Beachy, Linda Brown, Kathryn Beurlen and Gloriann Mehlman, were among the more than 60 teachers and administrators who were involuntarily transferred by Dr. Hickey last school year.

The transfers angered some parents and prompted state Sen. Christopher J. McCabe, a Republican from Montgomery and Howard counties, to propose legislation to curb the school superintendent's power to administratively transfer certain employees. He withdrew the bill yesterday, saying he was satisfied that the issue was being addressed by county educators.

The teachers argued in court that their case involved procedural matters that may be arbitrated under their contract. But the school board said transfers are non-negotiable and the procedure is set by state regulations, and the state board should have the final say on the issue raised by the teachers.

"The issues involved here are not negotiable," said Dana Hanna, school board chairman. "And if they're not negotiable, they're not arbitrable. That's what it summarizes down to."

Under their contract, teachers may request a written statement of the reason for an administrative transfer.

Teachers in this case requested statements from Dr. Hickey, who responded that he made the transfers based upon the "needs of the school system." Teachers wanted an arbitrator to decide whether his response was adequate.

"They have the right to request a written reason, a cause," Mr. Ambrose said. "The superintendent refused to do that. The superintendent said, 'for the good of the school system.'. . . We grieved that very narrow aspect, asking the arbitrator to decide whether it was a legitimate reason or not."

Union President James R. Swab criticized the school board for asking the state to resolve the matter.

"Running to the state board every time there is a disagreement over a contract language is irresponsible," he said. "Why put [money] in the budget every year to pay for lawyers to help with negotiations if they don't stick with what they negotiate?"

But Mr. Hanna said that allowing the state board to decide the issue "saves us an expense of going to arbitration, which possibly at the end could prove to be an exercise in futility."

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