The Rhode Island Superior Court has confirmed an award finding that the Providence School Board violated its contract with the Providence Teachers Union when it unilaterally declared that appeals relating to a decision to not invite a teacher back to a transforming school would be limited to "procedural improprieties".
Pursuant to the applicable cba, the Board and the Union were to work collaboratively to implement a Transformation Model for a school designated as "needing improvement" by the Rhode Island Department of Education. The Board and the Union worked together to create a process for teachers wishing to remain at the school. The process called for an initial interview with the principal. If the principal decided not to retain the teacher the teacher would be sent to an interview with a Recommendation Review Team. A teacher not invited back after a RRT interview could appeal that decision to a School Improvement Intervention Team. co-chaired by the Superintendent and the Union President. It was this final appeals process that the Board declared was limited to procedural irregularities.
In response to the Union's grievance, the arbitrator found the grievance arbitrable and the unilateral imposition of the limitation on the appeals process violative of the contract.
The Board sought to set aside this award, arguing that the dispute was not arbitrable in that it involved a "non-delegable duty" closely related to the school's educational mission.
The Superior Court rejected this argument and confirmed the award. It noted:
the relationship between a decision about the level of process to be afforded a teacher who has not been invited back by a principal and then the RRT in his or her appeal to the SIIT is too remotely related to the essence of the educational mission to be considered a non-delegable duty and thus not arbitrable. ... If this Court were to find the Board's decision to be pursuant to a non-delegable duty, despite its remote relationship with the essence of the educational mission, then it follows that the entire procedure for evaluating teachers at a persistently-lowest achieving school could potentially be considered non-delegable. There would be no encouragement for the Board and the Union to work collaboratively, as they have largely done in this case, to implement the RIDE intervention protocols and provide a method for reforming our state's most needy schools.
The court's decision can be found here.