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Unions Turn Around Argument on City's Turnaround Model

UFT, CSA sue the city, calls the mayor's move to close 24 schools this year a "sham"

In the years since the city took over control of the public schools, it has used the “turnaround” model for closing what it deems failing schools, and then re-opening them under a new name, I.D. number and with some new staff.

The United Federation of Teachers has fought this process tooth and nail, assailing the city's method of using closures as a means for school reform.

But yesterday, Ernest Logan, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators and UFT President Michael Mulgrew did a turnaround of their own; they filed a lawsuit, claiming the city’s process for closure does not constitute a closure after all, and they sought a temporary restraining order and injunction until the issue can be resolved through arbitration.

The suit charges that giving a school a new name and identification does not make it a new school: The children remain, the building remains, and so not much would change under turnaround.

“We change leaders of the schools, we change staff of the schools every year,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “That does not mean they’re closed.”

The UFT and CSA are calling the mayor's turnaround process for school reform “sham” closures meant to circumvent the union’s collective bargaining rules in order to overhaul the schools so that they can win federal turnaround funding.

If the UFT can prove that the city’s method and criteria for closing a school is not a true closure, it would then invalidate a clause in the UFT contract, known as 18-D, which guides rehiring at the schools. 

The UFT points out that the clause applies only to “new and redesigned” schools, not existing ones. If their argument is substantiated, then the city would be forced to negotiate a new contract for teachers in the 24 schools.

However, months and months could pass before a judge makes a final decision on this case. In fact, a decision likely would not come before the new school year, jeopardizing the opening of the new slated schools.

“We have already begun preparations to open these 24 new schools next fall, training their leadership teams and holding productive meetings with the UFT to begin the process of staffing the new schools,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. “Sadly, today’s lawsuit could have damaging consequences for that process, jeopardizing the creation of exciting new schools with new programs, teachers, and leadership structures.”

Do you agree with the UFT and the principals union law suit against the city to challenge the validity of the turnaround model?

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