In a major victory for Columbus students and educators, Arbitrator Sandra Mendel Furman ruled in favor of CEA in decisions on two separate grievances heard in expedited arbitration sessions last week. Furman also ordered remedies for the affected bargaining unit members.

In the first case, the District was ruled to have violated the Master Agreement by assigning more than 150 total students to an art teacher at South High School during the 2019-2020 school year. Arbitrator Furman ruled that the contract language is clear and unambiguous, and that “the phrase found in the [Memorandum of Agreement]: the maximum student load per day will not exceed 150 students is clear on its face”. She further ordered the district to cease and desist from assigning additional students to any high school teachers in the future, except those in computer, physical education and music as specified in the agreement.

In the second case, the District was ruled to have violated the Master Agreement by unilaterally implementing a revised elementary grading policy during the 2020-2021 school year, months after the close of the negotiated grade entry window. In light of the significant extra work elementary teachers were asked to perform on top of their regular duties, Arbitrator Furman not only ordered the district to “cease and desist from making midterm changes in the grading protocol/schedules absent the consent of CEA”, but also ordered CCS to allocate all elementary teachers who spend time revising grades pursuant to the implemented guidance approximately 7.5 hours of additional nonscheduled teaching (unassigned) time during the upcoming school year.

In addition to the remedies ordered to make CEA bargaining unit members whole, the District will be responsible for all costs associated with the arbitration hearing, nearly $3000 a day.

Though CEA made every attempt to resolve these grievances informally, we are satisfied that the arbitrator agreed that the CEA-CCS Master Agreement was violated. We are also pleased that due to our Union’s continued enforcement of our hard-won Master Agreement, high school students will see the smaller class sizes they deserve and elementary students will have the benefit of teachers less burdened with administrative work and able to focus on the classroom. CEA will continue to enforce our various agreements with Columbus City Schools, and awaits a third grievance arbitration decision likely to be published in the fall.