Teacher Association appeals report

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On the May 30 deadline, the Carmel Clay Education Association formally appealed a recommendation that found school officials did not violate the National Labor Relations Act when dealing with recent contract negotiaions.

In early May, at a two-day hearing, examiner Bernard L. Pylitt heard both sides of the argument, which stems from an 11-page complaint the Carmel Clay Education Association filed with the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board against the district late last year. The teachers union claims numerous “incorrect or incomplete representations of the facts from bargaining” e-mails and public statements from the school board and administration violated state labor law and “damaged” its bargaining position.

At issue are several e-mails and statements from school board members Greg Phillips and Andrew Klein, and Supt. Jeff Swensson. In his e-mail, Swensson instructs Carmel Clay principals and administrators to read the attached contract information and share it with the teachers, which many did.

As a result of the district’s actions, the complaint reads, several teachers put pressure on the contract negotiators to either accept or vote on the school district’s best offer.

According to the petition, the union seeks to not only stop all further communications with teachers regarding the negotiation, but also for the district’s last contract offer to the union to be rejected and the union’s final offer be accepted.

But Pylitt recommended to the IEERB that he concluded school officials did not violate the National Labor Relations Act when they publicly discussed or sent an e-mail to teachers about collective bargaining during contract negotiations.

The IEERB will base its official ruling on Pylitt’s report.

“School employers are permitted to communicate with members of the public, including teachers, about areas of public concern such as collective bargaining,” Pylitt said.

“The board simply wanted to make sure that we provided accurate information to the public regarding the state of collective bargaining at that point in time,” former school board vice president Andrew Klein testified .

The report also includes further testimony from Klein that said he “was certainly concerned that we do nothing that would constitute a bypass.”

The Association maintains the board committed unfair labor practices and states on its website, “(We) will continue to pursue this case through all legal channels. At the same time, (we) will remain open to further negotiations with Carmel Clay Schools in an attempt to get a fair contract that rewards (teachers) for all your hard work.”

Retiring Supt. Jeff Swensson emphasized the administration’s efforts for productive communication with district educators.

“Our school corporation has long sought to work collaboratively with our teachers’ association while abiding by relevant statutes,” Swensson said.  “Looking forward, it’s the school district’s intent to continue to engage in meaningful discussion and a constructive negotiation process.”

The appeal prolongs 2012-2013 negotiations while the school board and Association face approaching deadlines for 2013-2014 contract negotiations. About 42 percent of Carmel Clay teachers are members of the teacher’s association. District teachers continue to work under a contract that expired in June 2012.

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