FloRo Teachers File Grievance Alleging Contract Violation
by Robert Stewart
Teachers at Florence Roche Elementary School have filed a grievance against the School District alleging that the District has violated terms of their contract agreement in regards to dismissal times on half-days, holidays and Fridays. Superintendent of Schools Laura Chesson responded that the District had not violated terms of the agreement and offered to adjust dismissal times at Florence Roche to ensure that teachers can leave the building within 15 minutes after dismissal time.
That offer was rejected by the Groton Dunstable Educator’s Association (GDEA) as they appealed the Superintendent’s response and requested that the grievance be heard by the School Committee. The School Committee heard the complaint in Executive Session at their Jan. 23 meeting and considered it further at another Executive Session at their Jan. 30 meeting. School Committee Chair Marlena Gilbert told the Herald that the School Committee wanted to hear the complaint in public session but the GDEA requested that the hearing be held in Executive Session.
According to the grievance, the school district has repeatedly failed to adhere to dismissal times for teachers on half-days, holidays and on Fridays. The teacher filing the grievance on behalf of the Florence Roche staff stated in the complaint that the contract stipulates that dismissal time on half days is 12:13 p.m. but students were still in the classroom at 12:30 or 12:35 p.m. As a result, teachers could not leave the building until 20 or 25 minutes after the specified dismissal time in the contract. The remedy sought by the grievance was to dismiss students at 12:13 p.m., so teachers could leave the building as agreed upon in the contract.
Florence Roche Principal Brian Donoghue could not resolve the issue and the matter was sent to the Superintendent. In response to the grievance, Superintendent Chesson stated that the District did not violate terms of the contract and noted that dismissal time on half days was 12:15 p.m. which was written into the contract. “We cannot have teachers leave the building before dismissal time,” she wrote in response to the complaint. Dr. Chesson also conducted an informal survey of dismissal times at Florence Roche School, Swallow Union School in Dunstable, the high school and middle school to determine if dismissal times are noticeably higher at Florence Roche School.
The findings of her survey revealed that it took on average of 11 minutes for student dismissal at Florence Roche, 10 minutes at Swallow Union, 11 minutes at the Middle School and seven minutes at the High School. The survey was conducted at Florence Roche from Dec. 12 to Dec. 20, 2018. While the times were similar at the elementary schools, Dr. Chesson offered to adjust the dismissal times during regular school days from 3:20 p.m. to 3:17 p.m. which would allow teachers from Florence Roche to leave before 3:30 p.m.
Florence Roche teachers were reluctant to accept this remedy which left the issue unresolved. The grievance procedure provides that if issues remain unresolved at the building principal level and at the Superintendent level, the matter would next be heard by the School Committee. The School Committee has 10 days from the time it receives the grievance to respond to the complaint. After the Committee continues its discussion on the complaint at their Jan. 30 meeting, they are expected to make a decision before Feb. 2. If the GDEA is not satisfied with the School Committee’s response, they can elect to pursue their case through mediation.