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School Committee takes legal action

July 27, 2011

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – While still at a standoff with NEASK over whether the Basic Education Plan and the Human Capital policies are a mandatory subject of bargaining, the school committee filed a complaint last Thursday in the Washington County Superior Court against NEASK and the Commissioner of Education and the Board of Regents.

The school committee seeks a declaratory judgement from the Court asking it to determine whether the mandates in Rhode Island laws supersede any other provisions of the law that would require it to enter into any contract that limits the ability of the committee to make educational policy on the recruitment, hiring, management, evaluation or firing of teaching staff. Because the town council sets the value of the property tax levy assigned to the school fund, the school committee also made the town council a party-defendant Monday.

The school committee and teacher’s union are in disagreement over whether the union can negotiate Rhode Island Department of Education’s new regulations, the Basic Education Plan (BEP) and the teacher evaluation policy, which the school department believes calls for management’s responsibility to evaluate its employees and determine the staffing plan for the district.

“NEASK has stated that the difference of opinion on BEP compliance is the main obstacle to achieving an agreement. As we seem to be stalled on these items, and as the new school year is rapidly approaching, the school committee is seeking judicial help to resolve this matter,” School Committee Chairperson Maureen Cotter stated in a Thursday, July 21 letter.

The school committee contests that they, along with school committees across Rhode Island have been told by RIDE that they should try to negotiate the impact of the policies. Cotter stated that RIDE has told the school department that its current contract is not in compliance with the BEP. When the contract expires August 31, Cotter said the committee will be held responsible for implementation of the BEP. Cotter and attorney for the school department Daniel Kinder both stated that if South Kingstown is not in compliance with the BEP, they will be ordered to become in compliance or RIDE will withhold state aid to the town, which is over $8 million.

For more information pick up a copy of The Narragansett Times.

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