RSU 67, Teachers Union Settle Prohibitive Practice Complaint
Sambides, Nick, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)
LINCOLN, Maine -- RSU 67 leaders publicly recognized the teachers union's rights in a joint union-administration statement released Thursday that settles a prohibitive practice complaint.
The joint statement was published as a legal notice in the Bangor Daily News on Thursday and acknowledged briefly by interim school board Chairman Regginal Adams at a meeting Wednesday night.
"RSU 67 and the MEA [Maine Education Association] are pleased to announce that they have been able to reach a consent agreement which recognizes and affirms the right of all employees of the district to have access to and utilize the assistance of their association without interference," the statement reads.
"It is the hope of RSU 67 that this agreement will signal the beginning of a more positive relationship with the Association as we move forward with our common goal of providing the best possible education to students in our district," the statement added.
Maine Education Association general counsel Shawn Keenan filed the complaint with the Maine Labor Relations Board on behalf of Ella P. Burr School second-grade teacher Jodi Bisson in April. He represents MEA members teaching in RSU 67, which serves Chester, Lincoln and Mattawamkeag.
He accused Superintendent Denise Hamlin of wrongfully denying Bisson access to school property -- including Bisson's daughter's soccer game -- during a two-week investigation of Bisson that later resulted in a three-day unpaid suspension, the complaint states.
The complaint accused Hamlin of recognizing Bisson's union representative, teacher Holly Leighton, as only a "guest and only allowed to speak out of courtesy" during a disciplinary meeting; of transferring Bisson involuntarily to another assignment; of rejecting grievances because they weren't on proper forms; and of "interrogating" other union members to discourage them from discussing Bisson's disciplinary issue.
These actions undermined union activities as permitted by law and represent other violations of civil laws as well, Keenan has said.
Hamlin had denied the complaints. In a statement released in May, Hamlin said she was confident that the accusations would prove to be "frivolous and thinly veiled attacks on the superintendent and school board. We are confident that when the facts of the matter are presented they will be seen for what they are."
"I feel that we have held everyone to the stipulations of the [teachers union] contract, as well as school board policy and whatever building procedures are in place, and that probably isn't something that they [the complainants] are used to," Hamlin said at the time.
An arbitrator later ordered Bisson's suspension overturned in what union leaders declared a victory.
The joint statement acknowledges that Hamlin told Bisson "not to enter on school grounds to discuss the facts and circumstances of the charge with anyone" until a scheduled meeting with Bisson and Leighton. …