EM­PLOY: Board could re­ject ex­am­iner’s rul­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION -

Con­tin­ued from A1

In his rec­om­men­da­tion, which was signed July 13, the hear­ing ex­am­iner said the district can breach a con­tract only be­cause of good cause, such as poor per­for­mance or fi­nan­cial ex­i­gency.

Wil­liam Ster­ling Jr. wrote that the district “acted ar­bi­trar­ily, capri­ciously and un­law­fully when it ap­plied its ar­bi­trary and capri­cious pro­gram change rea­son for dis­charge of Decierdo’s con­tract.”

The ex­am­iner’s rec­om­men­da­tion was that the board should change its poli­cies and keep Decierdo.

The school board on Mon­day must de­cide whether to ac­cept or re­ject the rec­om­men­da­tion; the case could be ap­pealed to the Texas Ed­u­ca­tion Agency and even­tu­ally be heard in court.

The district dis­agrees with the rec­om­men­da­tion, said Mel Waxler, the district’s gen­eral coun­sel.

“To us this case is not about an in­di­vid­ual,” Waxler said. “To us this case is about a su­per­in­ten­dent’s right to rec­om­mend and a board’s author­ity to elim­i­nate po­si­tions or­ga­ni­za­tion­ally that no longer fit in the or­ga­ni­za­tional struc­ture of the district.”

The rul­ing could have statewide im­pli­ca­tions, said Decierdo’s at­tor­ney, Robert Not­zon, be­cause other dis­tricts — in­clud­ing Hous­ton, Dal­las, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Ge­orge­town and Manor — have poli­cies sim­i­lar to Austin’s.

But Texas Ed­u­ca­tion Agency spokes­woman Deb­bie Rat­cliffe said, “It is too early to tell whether this could have im­pli­ca­tions be­yond Austin.”

The Austin school board “could ac­cept the hear­ing ex­am­iner’s rec­om­men­da­tion, mod­ify it or re­ject it,” Rat­cliffe said. The board’s ac­tion could prompt an ap­peal to the state ed­u­ca­tion com­mis­sioner, “so it’s hard to say what the im­pli­ca­tions are yet,” she said.

District of­fi­cials will meet with Not­zon on Wed­nes­day to try to ham­mer out an agree­ment be­fore Mon­day’s school board meet­ing. If they reach an agree­ment, the district could by­pass the ex­am­iner’s rec­om­men­da­tion al­to­gether, Waxler said. But the school board would still need to ap­prove any agree­ment next week, he said.

Louis Mal­faro, pres­i­dent of Ed­u­ca­tion Austin, which rep­re­sents about 4,000 of the district’s teach­ers and other em­ploy­ees, said the ex­am­iner’s rec­om­men­da­tion is good news. Al­though Ed­u­ca­tion Austin sup­ported bud­get cuts and elim­i­nat­ing po­si­tions, the or­ga­ni­za­tion was against lay­ing off any em­ploy­ees.

“It’s a pos­i­tive thing that the Texas Ed­u­ca­tion Agency is up­hold­ing the sanc­tity of the em­ploy­ment con­tract and say­ing you can’t ar­bi­trar­ily de­cide you don’t need some­one any­more af­ter en­ter­ing into a legally bind­ing em­ploy­ment con­tract with them,” Mal­faro said.

“This is go­ing to throw a mon­key wrench in other dis­tricts’ poli­cies,” he said. “There are dis­tricts all over the state that have poli­cies sim­i­lar to AISD, and this hear­ing ex­am­iner’s read­ing of the law is you can only break con­tract for two rea­sons. Un­der the (rec­om­men­da­tion), you can’t get rid of some­one be­cause you’re get­ting rid of the pro­gram.”

Decierdo’s po­si­tion was among those that an in­de­pen­dent con­sult­ing firm rec­om­mended the district cut in a fi­nan­cial ef­fi­ciency study.

Last sum­mer, in­com­ing Su­per­in­ten­dent Meria Carstarphen asked trustees to ap­prove re­or­ga­niz­ing toplevel ad­min­is­tra­tive jobs. Carstarphen got per­mis­sion to elim­i­nate 12 jobs and add six, but school board mem­bers de­layed vot­ing on a request to cut Decierdo’s po­si­tion.

In 2008, Decierdo al­leged that she was be­ing mis­treated and dis­crim­i­nated against by her su­per­vi­sor.

In 2009, she filed griev­ances cit­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion and re­tal­i­a­tion af­ter she was dis­ci­plined for al­leged mis­con­duct. There was a hear­ing be­fore the school board, and the board last fall sided with ad­min­is­tra­tors.

Be­ing in­cluded among the re­cent job cuts con­tin­ues the re­tal­i­a­tion, Not­zon said.

Not­zon also said that Decierdo is con­sid­er­ing su­ing the district next month, al­leg­ing race dis­crim­i­na­tion, re­tal­i­a­tion and a hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment.

Those al­le­ga­tions will also be dis­cussed dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing.

“If we’re go­ing to achieve any res­o­lu­tion, it’s not go­ing to be piece­meal. It would ad­dress all is­sues,” Waxler said, adding that the district’s de­ci­sion to ter­mi­nate Decierdo was “not per­sonal.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.