The Council of State orders the continuation of discussions with teachers in Navarre, Coquillard

INDIANAPOLIS — A state board has ordered the South Bend school corporation to resume conversations with teachers at Navarre Middle School and Coquillard Elementary as district leaders seek to have educators from both schools removed from the teachers’ union of South Bend.

At a Tuesday meeting in Indianapolis, the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board ruled that district leaders should include teachers from both schools in union discussions while a hearing examiner delves into a complaint filed by the NEA-South Bend this winter.

The complaint stems from a long-standing plan to remove teachers from Navarre and Coquillard in a bid to offer greater incentives to educators working in those schools. Navarre and Coquillard are schools in the South Bend Empowerment Zone, created in 2019 supporting several underperforming schools.

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Teachers at area schools this year received raises ranging from $2,400 to $5,500 more than their South Bend District counterparts under the teachers’ most recent contract to compensate for the extra work educators in the area are taking as part of school recovery efforts.

Empowerment Zone officials first sought to remove Navarre and Coquillard from negotiation years ago by exercising a state law that allows districts to remove schools from the Transformation Zone from negotiation. whether schools receive three consecutive failing grades under the state’s AF accountability system.

Navarre and Coquillard met this standard. The other schools in the Empowerment Zone – Harrison, Warren and Wilson – were not excluded because the school district agreed when the zone was created to work with the union and because these three schools had no not received the required failing grades as a prerequisite for removing educators. of the union.

Records show Empowerment Zone attempted to remove Navarre and Coquillard teachers from negotiation back in February 2020. But, five months ago, the Education Employment Council advised district management and teachers that the two schools had not been properly excluded because South Bend District management had not not signed the changes.

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The notice came in November 2021 after South Bend schools refused to include Navarre and Coquillard expenses in a financial report during a series of tense negotiations this winter.

The state education employment board weighed in at the time, saying teachers in area schools should still be considered members of the NEA-South Bend bargaining unit.

However, South Bend Zone and District school officials refused to negotiate directly on the Navarre and Coquillard issues because they believed they had taken all the necessary steps to remove the teachers from the negotiation.

In response, NEA-South Bend filed an unfair labor practice lawsuit arguing that school officials should recognize teachers from both union schools.

“The problem is that we are missing the opportunity to discuss the safety of our students and the safety of our teachers,” attorney Eric Hylton said on behalf of NEA-South Bend teachers.

The South Bend District, after seeking advice from the school board this winter, had filed another request to remove the two schools, which attorney Kevin Vanderground says aligns with the spirit of the law of the State.

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“We still think they were left out,” Vanderground said. “We filed the second NOI just to be sure.”

Meanwhile, district and zone officials have declined to discuss issues relating to Navarre and Coquillard pending a response to their request to withdraw teachers from the union.

In a brief hearing on Tuesday, members of the education employment board noted that it appeared the district was seeking an exception to state law after the board told headteachers in November that they considered the teachers to be part of the union.

“That should give everyone a heads up,” board chair Tammy Meyer said.

The board ultimately sided with NEA-South Bend, saying district officials should meet with teachers from Navarre and Coquillard as a hearing examiner, appointed by the school board’s executive director, to investigate. further on the teachers’ union complaint.

Although it’s only one step in resolving the complaint, NEA-South Bend President Linda Lucy called Tuesday’s decision a victory.

“We got the relief we asked for,” Lucy said. “We can now represent the members…in all of our schools.”

Email Carley Lanich, education reporter for the South Bend Tribune, at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @carleylanich.

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