Second takes: Grading grievance resolved; retirement plans withdrawn

June 2019 Posted in School

By Brenna Wiegand

Grievances filed in February 2018 by Silver Falls Education Association on behalf of a Silverton High School English teacher were resolved as of the school board’s June 10 meeting.

The matter surfaced in September 2017 when the grading protocol for the college English course Writing 121/122, taught by Ben Hynes-Stone and colleague Travis Woodside, was brought into question by SHS assistant curriculum principal Johnnie Ferro.

Kids were getting F’s. Meant to motivate and provide accurate feedback, Ferro said the grading system was drawing numerous complaints from emotionally distressed students and parents.

Initial stabs at modifying the grading system or at least improving communication with parents soon resulted in confusion and dismay on the part of the educators while the district dug deeper into the program and its teachers. A string of events – over the course of nearly two years – included an investigatory review and subsequent letter of reprimand to Teachers Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) concerning the teachers.

In its February 2018 grievance the association alleged that district administration violated six articles of the collective bargaining agreement, multiple policies and TSPC regulations, none of which were found to be true by a third party arbitrator.

However, the district was found guilty of violating Article 3 (G) of the contract by “engaging in a pattern of retaliation and reprisal against the grievant for filing and processing grievances which was reflected, to some extent, in his employee evaluation.”

As a remedy Hynes-Stone’s 2017-2018 evaluation will be expunged from his personnel file.

“In essence it’s going to be like (the evaluation) never happened,” Willamette Education Service District Attorney Lisa Freiley told the board June 10.

“There were very few facts that were in dispute,” Freiley said. “It is what the intention of those facts were; we had a different answer than the association did.

“There were meetings, there were conversations; there were things that were said; there were actions that were taken; it was the why those actions were taken that became the subject of this,” Freiley said. “We will implement the arbitrator’s award and make sure things have been closed… and it’s all in an effort to hit a restart button and continue building positive relationships with the association.”

In addition, Freitag said the district intended to provide further training with staff as to the appropriate roles and responsibilities of all parties concerned.

In other business, Board Chair Tom Hughes reported on Superintendent Andy Bellando’s annual evaluation in which he earned an average 3.4 out of 4 marks in the ten areas of his job. Bellando had also proposed a new contract in which he would retire and come back on an annual contract in anticipation of the new Public Employment Retirement System (PERS) that goes into effect Jan. 1. The law allows public employees to retire and work back full time; in the past they were limited to working back up to only half time.

The new law requires that the employer portion of the PERS contribution be directed toward the PERS debt and stop continuing on the retiree’s behalf.

Bellando’s proposal had already been questioned during public testimony, and became the subject of a protracted discussion between the board and Freiley until Bellando broke in with a surprising announcement.

“This is becoming extremely complex and much, much more difficult than what I’d anticipated,” Bellando, a 34-year employee of the district, said. “I’m choosing to withdraw my letter of retirement and contractual proposal. We’ve spent over an hour discussing this matter; discussing my personal fate; you’re discussing about my professionalism and my approach to the future. Because I support this school district; I think it’s in the best interest at this point to fully withdraw both of those proposals.”

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