Carl Monday 7-month investigation: $1M teacher scheduling payout

Carl Monday uncovers big bills that could have been avoided

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A seven-month investigation by Cleveland19's Chief Investigator Carl Monday shows the Cleveland Metropolitan School District spent more than $1 million to settle teacher scheduling disputes at three high schools.

The Cleveland Teachers Union says it's money the district could have saved if school administrators had not dragged their feet.

In October 2013, teachers at the old Max Hayes Vocational School complained that their principal had assigned them to a seventh-period class in violation of the union contract. They also grieved a shortened lunch period.

By June 2014, a grievance was ruled in favor of the union, a ruling that was never disputed by CMSD.

But when the next school year rolled around, the teachers still had not been paid. A letter was sent to CMSD CEO Eric Gordon.

Still there were no paychecks for teachers as the meter continued to run.

It wasn't until March 2015 that the teachers were finally paid. The total: $484,000 in back pay and penalties.

Shari Obrenski is the CTU's chief negotiator.

"When we brought this to the attention of the district, they acknowledged there was a problem. It should have been fixed immediately. There's absolutely no excuse for this to go on a year and a half longer than it needed to," Obrenski said.

Max Hayes is not the only school where this has happened. A settlement at John Marshall High cost $350,000. Another at John Hays Schools of Science & Technology ran $390,000.

The total cost to taxpayers for the three settlements came to $1.2 million.

"This community stepped up tremendously in passing the levy (in 2012)," CTU president David Quokle points out. "They're looking at us as being the watchdog. How those dollars are spent. And clearly in this case, what should have been a better use of those monies, could have been avoided-- wasn't."

Monday tried to arrange a meeting with CEO Eric Gordon to discuss the story. But in an email to Monday's producer, the district's communications chief Roseann Canfora wrote, "I decline your request for Carl Monday to interview either the CEO or principals with regard to teacher compensation."

Canfora did write in the email that "with increased school autonomy under the 'Cleveland Plan,' school principals and their staff now have greater authority on how they use time, talent and resources to achieve their academic goals."

Canfora says teachers at Max Hayes and John Hays had agreed to the schedule change. It's a claim the union refutes. CMSD says they didn't fight the grievance because they didn't want to disrupt the school year already in progress.

The Union is pleased that the teachers got paid for the extra work they were assigned. But they say the money could have been put to better use, like buying more computer and textbooks, and hiring more teachers.

"I'm totally disturbed by the behaviors on how we constantly waste money, time and time and time again," said school critic Kimberly Brown. "It's a sad day because our young people are the ones who will suffer. And they will continue to suffer."

In the coming year, CMSD is expected to roll out its campaign for renewal of the current school levy, which is expected to raise over $200 million, paid for by Cleveland homeowners in their increased tax bills.

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