Monday, July 9, 2012

Equal Voice Trumps Final Say

Earlier this year, the NFT filed a grievance (see attached) against the district, more specifically against NHS principal Rob McGee, over what the union claimed was a violation of our CBA.

At the heart of the matter was a March 2011 in-service day which Dr. McGee wanted to devote to state-mandated PSSA proctor training for our certified staff. Given our district’s precipitous drop in scores over the years, I don’t think I need to emphasize to you the importance of the training Dr. McGee wanted to provide.

Despite the need for training, the union officials at the high school wanted to call upon a past practice of using this particular in-service day for other purposes since they believed Dr. McGee didn’t give them adequate notice that he wanted to use this day for PSSA proctor training. It is important to note that all the other NSD buildings were able to hold their PSSA proctor sessions, which took all of 45 minutes, during that in-service day. It was only the high school union reps who refused to accommodate their principal's training schedule.

After hearing the NFT’s position, Dr. McGee decided that the training was absolutely essential and therefore decided that was how the in-service day was to be used. The NFT disagreed and filed a grievance saying that McGee failed in allowing the union an equal voice in the matter.

As you will see from page 4 testimony of former NFT official Kevin Knowles, the “equal voice” language was put into the CBA to ensure that “neither side would have veto power.”

While all of us agree that collaboration is important to the success of any organization, the role of authority and decision-making ability are equally essential. A ship isn’t run by committee; it has but one captain. Just like a ship, each school building has a principal who must be responsible for the day-to-day operations of that facility. If the principal doesn’t have ultimate authority in their building, how can we possibly hold them accountable for what goes on inside?

The NFT doesn’t care about that, and apparently neither did the arbitrator who found in favor of the NFT by stating on page 19 that Dr. McGee simply “pulled rank” rather than engage in a “marketplace of ideas” collaboration with the NFT.

The way I interpret this decision is that the district’s right to “final say” is trumped by the NFT’s equal voice. I cannot imagine running a company this way, and I suspect this has much to do with why our district continues to struggle.

This ruling highlights why we can never allow the equal voice doctrine to find its way into a future CBA. More often than not, equal voice is used to paralyze our administrators while allowing the NFT to protect the status quo.

Arbitrator Award in Service Day 05232012

We will continue to keep the public advised of arbitration rulings in the future.
Ritchie Webb