Dr. William Hite Jr violated the law willfully in Prince George’s County public schools District and in Philadelphia School District. In both districts, he is facing lawsuits.
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has won another round in its battle with the School District over seniority and counselor staffing levels.
A Common Pleas Court judge denied the district’s request to overturn an arbitrator’s finding that the district violated the union contract in 2013 when it ignored seniority in recalling laid-off counselors.
In an order filed Tuesday, Judge Linda A. Carpenter also backed the arbitrator’s decision that the PFT contract required each school to have at least one counselor on staff.
Union president Jerry Jordan said Thursday that he was “delighted with Judge Carpenter’s decision that clearly there should be one counselor in every school for the children.”
He added: “I think that this is a big victory for the children. I hoped that her ruling would be the end of this, and that the counselors would be restored to the schools.”
But that will not be the case.
A district spokeswoman confirmed that the district had filed an appeal in Commonwealth Court on Thursday, but she declined further comment.
Citing financial woes, the district laid off all 283 counselors in June 2013. It brought back 126 that fall without regard to seniority, and required many of them to serve students at more than one school.
Principals selected the counselors who were recalled, and the PFT filed a grievance.
During a hearing before Carpenter in September, district lawyers argued that Ralph Colflesh, an independent arbitrator, had misinterpreted the PFT contract and overstepped his authority when he ruled in July that every public school in the city should have a full-time counselor.
The district contended that the PFT contract did not contain language covering the recall or reassignment of laid-off counselors. The district also said counselors were restored to the schools they had left based on where the needs were the greatest. To do otherwise, the district said, would have resulted in “mass reshuffling.”
The district has said it would cost $3.4 million to hire enough counselors to have one in every school and millions more to pay counselors’ back wages.
In her decision, Carpenter found that although the contract expired in August 2013, its provisions were in effect because the district and the union had not declared they had reached an impasse in negotiations.
Jordan said nearly 40 of the counselors who were laid off in 2013 had not been recalled by the district.
He pointed out that that was the year the district had closed 24 schools and converted six others to charters.
The counselors’ case is not the only PFT dispute in the courts.
The state Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the School Reform Commission exceeded its authority in October 2014 when it voted to suspend the PFT contract and impose new economic terms, including changes to the health-care plan.