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Teacher Layoffs & realignments (News analysis and opinion)   |   Realigned teachers hire lawyer with conflict of interest   |   Nearly 100 attend meeting called by realigned teachers

Realigned teachers hire lawyer with conflict of interest
Write-in "Doug Mann" for School Board
Another Option for Minneapolis School Board Voters (2004 General Election)
by Doug Mann, 29 Oct 2004, Submitted to the Star-Tribune for publication 28 Oct 2004

Subj:      [Mpls] Realigned teachers hire lawyer with conflict of interest
Date:     7/23/2004 12:49:37 AM Central Daylight Time
From: (Doug Mann)

Nearly 100 attended a meeting organized by realigned teachers on July 21, 2004. This was the second meeting to discuss moving forward with a lawsuit to oppose teacher realignments and to hire labor attorney Gregg M. Corwin to represent the realigned teachers. Corwin asked every teacher who wants to become a plaintiff to sign a retainer agreement and pay a $500 fee up front.  

Corwin stated that he is unwilling to allege violations of teacher contract rights by the board due to a conflict of interest. It is not in Corwin's interest to take any action that puts him at odds with the teachers' union leadership and DFL & Labor endorsed Minneapolis School Board members. Corwin works for more than 11 union bodies, including an AFCSME Council that represents employees of the Minneapolis School District and that has endorsed current members of the school board.

The lawsuit that Gregg M. Corwin proposes to file on behalf of realigned MPS teachers is based on the Teacher Tenure Act, and the teacher tenure act requires teachers to seek and exhaust administrative remedies before going to court in order to enforce rights under the act. However, Mr. Corwin is not advising teachers to seek administrative remedies before going to court.

Corwin is proposing to challenge a massive "realignment" of teaching positions recently carried out by the district as "unreasonable" and not in the best interests of the students. Without Corwin's lawsuit the district is going to reverse some of its unreasonable reassignments anyway, especially those that will negatively affect the district's income. For example, the district faces the loss of
millions of dollars in Medicaid funding  if it replaces qualified autism teachers with unqualified autism teachers.

The district bumped 190 of the highest-seniority elementary school teachers with multiple teaching licenses from their jobs. The plan is to replace those old-timers with elementary school teachers employed with the school district for less than 5 years. Hundreds of other teacher positions were realigned to create the necessary vacancies.

The Teacher Tenure Act generally does not allow teachers to be bumped out of positions that are not being cut or substantially modified. Involuntary reassignments are allowed only after the district takes other steps to avoid laying off displaced, tenured teachers and before putting anyone on an unrequested leave of absence (layoff). If the district had played by the rules, few if any of the 190 high-seniority elementary teachers who have been bumped from their positions would have been needed to plug holes in other areas in order to prevent the layoff of tenured elementary teachers nearest the bottom of the seniority list.  

According to about a dozen teachers who I spoke with at the meeting of realigned teachers on July 21, the right of a teacher to not be bumped from a job, except as allowed under the teacher tenure act is generally not observed in the Minneapolis Public Schools. Why? Teachers do not file grievances over the issue because they fear "under the table" retaliation from management, cannot
obtain representation from the union, and / or have been misinformed about their rights and duties under the teachers contract and the MN teachers tenure law.

-Doug Mann, King Field
Mann for School Board