Last month, the state-appointed Lorain Academic Distress Commission passed a resolution eliminating bumping rights to ensure “high-quality staff in the most effective positions.” The commission took academic control last year due to four consecutive years of low state test scores. Lorain Schools will have to receive a C or better on two state report cards within a three-year period to exit the takeover.
The resolution said the state academic takeover law that allowed Lorain Schools’ academic decisions to be controlled by an unelected body allows for voiding union contract language like bumping. Nonetheless, the new contract does contain some seniority protections.
The least senior administrator in a classification slated for layoffs would be laid off first, but only if those judged with more seniority are rated effective by the administration. If the more senior administrator is rated ineffective, he or she would be laid off first. If two administrators are rated ineffective, the administrator deemed the most effective of the two would be retained.
If an administrator were bumped to a lower classification, such as a laid-off high school principal bumping into a middle school assistant principal position, the principal would have had to previously been an assistant middle school principal and rated effective.
Monday’s vote was unanimous, but board member Jim Smith expressed reservations. While comfortable with the bumping changes, Smith said if a lawsuit is ever filed challenging the commission’s authority to alter contracts, the board, not the commission, would be sued.
Smith said he believes commission members have good intentions, but he dislikes the principle of an unelected body dictating to elected officials. He said the takeover law needs to be tested.
“The people elected us,” he said. “If they don’t like what we’re doing they’ll not elect us again, but the commission’s appointed.”
Last month, Tim Jama, association president, said the union was considering suing over the resolution. But Jama said Monday that he was satisfied with the changes. “It’s a really positive thing,” he said.
Jama said the 37-member union — comprised of assistant principals, principals and school psychologists — unanimously approved the three-year contract July 25. It contains no raises or changes in benefits, but does give the union the right to renegotiate on wages in the fall if the board opts to renegotiate wages with the teachers’ union.
Commission Chairman Bill Zelei said he was pleased with the contract. He said the commission was OK with seniority as long as administrators weren’t bumped into positions they were unqualified for. Zelei said the commission’s resolution gave the board leverage to achieve a compromise with the association.
“It helped the association understand that complete and unrestricted seniority wasn’t going to work within the organization,” he said. “The contract, as it stands, will benefit our administrators and it will also benefit the kids in the school district.”