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Grievance process prevents principals from using vendor “certifications” to carve out positions and lay off veteran teachers.

As members are aware, CPS principals often redefine teaching position requirements to sidestep seniority rights and lay off veteran teachers. In recent years, an increasing number of principals have tried to claim that trainings by a private, third-party group (such as International Baccalaureate or One Goal) constitute “certifications.” Principals have often funnelled younger teachers into a training for one of these programs, redefined teaching positions to require the training, then laid off teachers with more seniority. They justify the layoff with the pretext that the veteran teacher isn’t qualified for the position because they don’t hold the private operator program “certification.”

A labor arbitrator just put an end to that scam. The new arbitration decision creates an important precedent that will protect other teachers for years to come.

Facts of the case

Andrzej Nowak was a physics teacher at Foreman High School who was laid off due to no fault of his own after his position was eliminated.  At the time of the layoff, Foreman operated a program through One Goal – a private third-party, not-for-profit organization. The Board partners with One Goal to run a program at certain CPS high schools to provide support to students geared toward success in post-secondary education.

Teachers at schools with One Goal programs can be nominated to participate in the program or can nominate themselves.  The Principal and the One Goal program contractors then select which of the nominees will participate in the program. The selected teachers go through 9 or 10 hours of training before beginning to work in the program. After Mr. Nowak was laid off, the school retained a less senior teacher in the One Goal program.

CPS fallacies

CPS claimed that the layoff was proper. They tried to say Mr. Nowak could not bump into the less senior teacher’s position. They alleged that the position was “outside his area of certification” because he had not undergone training in the One Goal program.

The Union maintained that selection for the One Goal program cannot be considered a certification within the meaning of Appendix H of our contract. That’s because — unlike an ISBE license or endorsement — there is nothing a teacher can do that would guarantee that he or she obtained the One Goal credential.

Justice prevails

On the basis of our arguments, the arbitrator ruled that Mr. Nowak’s layoff violated our contract. They ordered CPS to allow him to be reinstated and be made whole for all losses associated with his layoff. This decision fortifies the seniority protections under our contract, and will be an important tool to protect veteran teachers.