By Denise Dick
Interviews continue to fill 90 teaching positions at three city schools, but the president of the teachers union says more may have sought the positions if the district had provided more information.
The district wants to fill 30 positions at the visual and performing arts/science, technology, engineering and math school set to open at Chaney High School next year. At the eighth-and-ninth-grade academy (in the current P. Ross Berry Middle School), 41 teaching positions are available, and there are 19 spots at the University Project Learning Center alternative school.
“About 142 teachers applied for the open positions that required interviews,” said Karen Ingraham, school district communications director.
That includes people from both within and outside the district.
Will Bagnola, president of the Youngstown Education Association, the union representing Youngstown teachers, believes most of those are probably from outside the district.
A breakdown of how many people applied for jobs at each of the schools or where the applicants are from was not available.
The district posted the teaching positions, and interested teachers had to apply, interview and be selected for the jobs. Superintendent Connie Hathorn has said he wants the best people for the jobs.
“If we don’t turn this school system around, we’re not going to turn the city around,” he said at a school board meeting last week.
The teachers contract with the district calls for assignments to be based on teacher seniority, but last month, the academic-distress commission passed a resolution restoring rights and responsibilities that the district had negotiated away in prior collective-bargaining agreements. That includes seniority, class size and other issues.
More YEA teachers may have applied for the jobs if more information had been provided, Bagnola said. Teachers in the specialty schools will have to report earlier this fall for professional development, but he said no one has told him when that professional development will start.
If someone has vacation scheduled, that may conflict with the dates for the training.
Hathorn has said the VPA/STEM school will have a longer school day, but Bagnola says there’s been no information disseminated about how that will be done.
Teachers who have family or graduate-school commitments, for example, may be reluctant to seek those jobs without knowing more.
“Their lack of specifics has led people to take the conservative route and not take a job if they think, ‘I can’t do it,’” he said. “How can you make a commitment for something if you’re not sure what it is?”
Bagnola said the academic commission has the authority to take back management rights, but he doesn’t believe it followed the proper procedures to do that.
The union has filed a handful of grievances regarding issues it believes don’t fall within the category of management rights.
An example of that is when teachers have been unassigned from a particular building, something that happened to some teachers including a few veterans.
“They’re not even notifying me that they’re doing that,” Bagnola said. “I’m finding out if the teachers call me. I’m supposed to receive notification in writing at the same time the teachers do.”
Some of them, though, haven’t received that written notification either.
“We’ve had people get things in writing, human resources has retracted it verbally, and then their supervisor tells them other things,” the union president said.
It hasn’t been an orderly process, he said.
“It’s creating stress and anxiety and mistrust and bad feelings,” Bagnola said.