STAMFORD – A subcommittee of the Board of Education on Thursday unanimously denied a grievance brought forward by the city’s teachers union that said the district administration had violated the teachers’ contract by changing the scheduled periods at the high school without the approval of the board.
The grievance was spurred by a proposal to transition the schedules at Stamford High School and Westhill High School to what is called a 4×4 hybrid block schedule — a model that schedules students to attend 90-minute sections of the same four classes each day for the fall semester, and then switch to four new classes for the spring.
The proposed schedule has resulted in pushback from parents, students and teachers, including a vote of no-confidence from teachers at two of the district’s high schools, AITE and Westhill High School, earlier this spring. Principals Michael Rinaldi of Westhill High School and Matthew Forker of Stamford High School also wrote a letter to the district administration expressing their concerns about “serious issues” with the proposed 4×4 hybrid block schedule.
Last week, just over two dozen administrators signed a letter in support of the superintendent and associate superintendent, praising her for giving members of the school community opportunities to express their views and for taking into account multiple viewpoints.
During the Thursday grievance hearing, Guy Semon, representative for the teacher’s union, argued that because language in the contract between the Stamford Education Association and the Board of Education stipulated the teacher’s schedule, any changes made to the schedule needed to be authorized through a Board of Education vote, and not unilaterally decided by the administration.
“Since this is the agreement between the SEA and the Board of Education, it would seem to me that the Board of Education would have to give specifically the permission to the superintendent [or] assistant superintendent to allow them to make changes in this contract,” said Semon.
Christopher Soules, the director of Human Resources for the district, said that the superintendent contract often used the terms “Board of Education” and “superintendent” interchangeably.
“I think the board has made it clear that the authority to change the schedule of the school day rests with the administration and the superintendent,” said Soules.
Andy George, chair of the board’s labor committee, agreed with Soules.
Board member Daniel Dauplaise pointed out that the board did not take a vote on whether to give the superintendent authority to make decisions about scheduling.
“There’s sort of a general issuance of authority to the superintendent to run the day-to-day operations of the school system,” said Dauplaise.
But Semon pushed back that the change in scheduling could have financial consequences for taxpayers, which meant that the Board should take a vote.
“When you change the working conditions, there’s an impact and it’s usually financial,” said Semon.
Last month, the board denied another grievance regarding the district’s scheduling, which claimed that making changes to the schedule without teacher input was a violation of board policy.