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April 25, 2013

'Teacher Leader Cabinet' plan riles Lawrence Teachers Union

Group files complaints against superintendent/receiver

LAWRENCE — Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey C. Riley plans to create a “teacher leader cabinet” to reward top educators in the city with a $5,000 honorarium and empower them in the ongoing turnaround of Lawrence Public Schools.

Under the proposal, Riley would take “the best” 100 teachers in the district and form two advisory groups that would each serve six month stints, beginning in August. Cabinet members would meet with him for monthly briefings on the continuing vision and progress of the turnaround plan and upcoming initiatives.

“They’ll provide me with their own thoughts and perspective from their schools and classrooms: what they see working, what the challenges are and the potential solutions,” Riley said in an interview yesterday.

“It’s the all-too-rare chance to have regular, unfiltered discussions between me and our best teachers on how to keep the turnaround on course,” he added.

But Lawrence Teachers Union President Frank McLaughlin said Riley violated state labor law by posting an announcement for the stipend position without first bargaining with the union.

Riley’s proposed teacher leader cabinet and his alleged dealings with the union — leaders accuse him of failing to bargain in good faith — are the subject of two recent unfair labor practice complaints filed with the state Labor Relations Board.

In a two-page complaint, the union requested that the announcement be rescinded and that the superintendent/receiver be “ordered to bargain in good faith over the terms of the stipend position. In another 10-page complaint, the union seeks to stop Riley from implementing terms and conditions of employment without violating collective bargaining laws.

“The Lawrence schools are struggling, but silencing teachers and weakening their ability to advocate for kids is not the way to go,” McLaughlin said a recent statement.

“The receiver is attempting to negate the very essence of collective bargaining, which exists to give teachers a voice in decision-making. Rather than collaborating with teachers, families and the community, he is unilaterally imposing an untested, unproven plan, which in the end will hurt the kids in our classrooms,” he said.

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