The state Department of Labor Relations has dismissed complaints filed against the school committee by the Falmouth Educators Association. The school committee received the documentation on Monday, July 19.
In November last year, the FEA filed charges alleging the school committee had not bargained in good faith when negotiating a memorandum of agreement on working conditions and that it had retaliated against union leadership, vice chairwoman Kelly A. Welch said at Tuesday’s school committee meeting.
The investigation, conducted by the state’s attorney, Lan Kantany, found there was insufficient evidence provided by the union to establish probable cause that the committee engaged in bad faith bargaining and made unilateral changes to working conditions. In relation to retaliation allegations, the investigation found the union also failed to demonstrate how Lori Andrade, union president, was materially impacted by the school committee’s conduct.
During the investigation both parties submitted documentation showing various proposals and responses made during the MOA negotiations, Ms. Kantany said. These negotiations began on July 21, 2020, in order to implement remote and hybrid learning models as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The union argued that the school committee failed to bargain in good faith when the committee abruptly stopped meeting regularly with the FEA in late September, refusing to make any proposals or counter-proposals on bargaining subjects from September 22, 2020, to November 5, 2020. The school committee and union provided conflicting session dates regarding that time frame. There is no dispute that sessions commenced regularly on October 16, 2020.
Prior to completing the MOA in December, the school committee opened school buildings for a hybrid learning model in October. Upon reopening, the committee implemented tentative agreements that had been previously reached.
The FEA argued that the implemented proposals changed health and safety in school buildings and altered workloads without stating what those agreements were. However, the union did acknowledge there was no bargaining obligation with respect to the decision to switch to hybrid or in-person learning, Ms. Kantany said. The school committee contended there was seamless participation during negotiations and that they were not obligated to continue making proposals that were previously rejected.
The allegations of retaliation were brought forth through the FEA’s Professional Rights and Responsibilities chairwoman, Susan Ripley-Young, on behalf of FEA president Lori Andrade. The grievance pertained to the disputed salary of Ms. Andrade in her new position as assistant principal. Ms. Andrade was originally awarded a salary of $104,868.
On or about June 11, 2020, Ms. Andrade contacted the Director of Human Resources Joany Santa to correct what she believed was a salary miscalculation. On June 12, Dr. Santa emailed Ms. Andrade a revised letter that calculated her salary at $106,216. Ms. Andrade signed the letter in agreement on July 15.
Dr. Santa contacted Ms. Andrade again on July 21 stating in an email that “her assignment letter has variables that [assistant principals and special education/building administrators] do not get this year,” requesting to speak with Ms. Andrade about the changes. In the email, Dr. Santa stated that the corrected salary amount would be $100,622.
Grievances were filed by the FEA on September 28 stating that, due to Ms. Andrade’s having already signed and returned the assignment letter “she was entitled to at least her 2019-2020 salary adjusted by the Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA).”
Superintendent Lori S. Duerr responded on October 20, offering Ms. Andrade a salary of “$104,633 for the 2020-2021 school year, which is the total of her 2019-2020 salary plus a 2 percent COLA.” Ms. Andrade accepted the offer and signed the letter on October 24.
Disagreements continued about whether Ms. Andrade’s salary included her 2019-2020 salary with the 2 percent COLA increase at $104,633 or a 2 percent COLA increase on top, for a total of $106,725.66.
On October 31, Dr. Duerr responded to the grievances in an email to Ms. Andrade and Ms. Ripley-Young. Dr. Duerr stated that the union had requested Ms. Andrade’s salary to be $104,633, agreeing to their explanation for the change. The final letter was sent by Dr. Duerr to Ms. Andrade on November 9, setting the salary at $104,633, which was signed by Ms. Andrade on November 15.
The union asserted the school committee took part in discriminatory conduct by depriving Ms. Andrade of her pay and forced her to appeal to the grievance procedure. The school committee argued that there were no adverse actions or evidence to suggest discriminatory hostility. The confusion pertaining to Ms. Andrade’s salary was due to her position the previous year being in two different categories.
Other grievances brought forth during the investigation conference pertained to Ms. Andrade’s SEBA caseload increase as changes were made to the structure of preschool special education students.
Ms. Andrade approached the Director of Student Services, Joan Woodward, to discuss problems with the caseload. This conversation and meetings with the other six SEBAs resulted in Dr. Woodward’s reviewing their equity and distribution of work. The union alleged instead of having a discussion with Ms. Andrade, Dr. Woodward conducted an audit of Ms. Andrade’s course load. The investigation showed there was no increase or decrease in Ms. Andrade’s caseload
A grievance was also filed after Ms. Andrade was denied mileage reimbursement for travel during the 2019-2020 school year in her role as assistant principal and literacy manager. The union filed a grievance after her June 2020 request, which resulted in Ms. Andrade’s receiving mileage reimbursements following the grievance process.
The investigation resulted in all charges being dropped in their entirety for lack of sufficient evidence of probable cause. The FEA has 10 days following these findings to seek a review of dismissal.