The X-Punged Files

The Louisville City School District in Ohio reached a settlement with the teachers’ union over the fate of three school employees accused of deleting thousands of school files before the union went on strike last November.

You can read the story to get to the particulars of the offense and the settlement, but going back over the history of the dispute, I found the timeline of events even more interesting.

Nov. 2: The 180-member Louisville Education Association goes on strike.

Nov. 22: The union says it will end the strike if the school board will include a no-retaliation clause in the new contract. The provision would have prevented the school board from pursuing “any pending or potential discipline of bargaining unit members for any alleged pre-strike activity.”

Nov 23: The superintendent reveals 10 teachers are under investigation for deleting thousands of files from school computers. The union contends the incident has nothing to do with its request for a no-reprisal clause. A union spokesperson states the provision is “the handshake that starts the healing process.”

Nov. 28: After the board refuses to add the provision, the union ends the strike without a contract and the teachers return to work.

Nov. 29: The 10 teachers under investigation are placed on paid leave.

Jan. 17: The board reaches a settlement with seven of the 10 teachers. One resigns, while the other six lose five days’ pay and are placed on probationary status for five years. The three remaining teachers are suspended without pay pending termination. The union issues a statement that reads, in part:

The LEA stands with all ten exemplary teachers who have been unreasonably accused of wrongdoing. In the case of these three outstanding colleagues, we will support them as they fight this wrongful termination.

June 20: Two of three suspended teachers drop their appeal and resign. They were allowed to use accumulated sick leave to cover the period they were suspended and were paid about $30,000 each.

Sept. 22: The final teacher, Shawn Arbogast, resigns and accepts an agreement similar to that of his suspended colleagues. A second settlement was reached between the board and the Ohio Education Association, representing its UniServ director for the region, Allison Hoffa.

The state union agreed to pay the board $75,000. This would be very curious, if the Canton Repository hadn’t discovered the reason through a public records request.

The newspaper reported that an October 5 message – four weeks before the strike – posted by Arbogast on the Louisville Education Association’s private Facebook page gave detailed instructions on how teachers could permanently delete files from their school computers. The Repository recounted what happened next:

“If you wish to permanently delete your files, you must do it ASAP to avoid them being able to be recovered,” the message reads.

A post on Oct. 6 shows a Louisville teacher asking, “We are being recommended to do this correct????”

Hoffa’s response to the teacher reads, “We recommend you do this to preserve the hard work you have put into your lesson planning for your students. We do not know what access SCABS may have to these files.”

A couple of footnotes: Interesting attempt by the union to use the collective bargaining process itself to head off punishment for a pre-strike offense. Stuff like this is how contracts end up several hundred pages long.

Second, none of the 10 was fired and it doesn’t appear any of them lost pay. On the other hand, after their union claimed they were all wrongfully accused and promised to fight their suspension and dismissal, it ultimately settled in order to “save the time and expense of costly litigation,” according to the final agreement. A timely example of how these things work, to be sure.