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Baltimore Teachers Union files second grievance over layoffs

The Baltimore Teachers Union has filed a second grievance against the city school district over the layoff of teachers and aides last week, saying administrators failed to provide required notice that would allow union leaders to try and save the jobs.

About 60 union members were told Thursday that they were being laid off as part of a $1.31 billion budget plan for next fiscal year. Some 115 people were laid off in all including 21 librarians or school counselors and 24 assistant principals. Thirteen classroom teachers also lost their jobs in the first teacher layoffs in a decade.

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DeRay Mckesson, the interim chief human capital officer for city schools, said school district administrators were in continuous communication with union leaders once they learned of the need for layoffs.

"We consistently discussed all related time lines, both about notification to impacted employees and about the delivery of all required information to the BTU," he said.

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The union said its contracts require administrators to provide union leaders with a seniority list at least 15 days before finalizing layoffs. Union president Marietta English said she received the seniority list for teachers four days before teachers were told they're being laid off. The list for aides came overnight before aides were told, she said.

There was no time for union leaders to advocate for the affected employees, English said. She wanted those laid off to be to be considered for vacant positions or provided new training to teach another subject.

"My whole thing is you didn't come and sit down with us and say, 'There's a vacancy over here. Can Marietta be retrained?'" she said. "That's how it's been done in the past."

The union now has filed separate grievances related to the layoffs of teachers and aides. Attorneys for the union and school district will agree on an arbitrator and schedule a hearing in coming months. An arbitrator wouldn't be able to block the layoffs.

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The union has asked in its grievances for all layoffs to be rescinded until the school district complies with the contract requirements, and for affected employees to be reinstated with full back pay and benefits.

"I hope they sit down with us and help us place these people in positions that are vacant so we don't really have to go to arbitration," English said.

Meanwhile, the union and district already are headed to mediation over a new teachers contract. The sides have agreed on health benefits for a new contract but remain stuck over salaries. The two sides jointly filed requests for mediation last month with the Maryland Public School Labor Relations Board.

City schools CEO Sonja Santelises warned months ago that 1,000 people could be laid off to help fill a $130 million shortfall facing the district next school year. After the shortfall was announced in December, teachers, parents and students held rallies outside City Hall in Baltimore and the State House in Annapolis to get more money. State and city officials pledged nearly $60 million to help narrow the gap, and Santelises scaled back the layoffs to about 300 in recent weeks. Last week officials announced that number was further reduced to 115 people.

It's the third straight year of layoffs in the school district.

The school system employs 11,000 people total, about 6,000 of them teachers. Each year administrators recruit hundreds of new teachers for subjects in which there are staffing shortages. The hiring will continue, school officials said, and as many as 200 teachers could be recruited, including those laid off who qualify.

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