BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Wyoming County Press Examiner
The Tunkhannock Area School Board filed an appeal Friday against an arbitrator’s ruling May 24 that necessitates the re-instatement of 32 district employees who were furloughed during the school year just ended.
The ‘Petition to Vacate Arbitration Award’ was filed in the Wyoming County Court of Common Pleas by school district Solicitor Frank Tunis.
At odds is the finding of arbitrator Thomas McConnell following an hearing that took place Nov. 19, 2012.
The district maintains that the arbitrator’s award “is entirely unfounded and, if enforced, will result in a complete miscarriage of justice on the District and its taxpayers.”
The document asserts the position made at the hearing that teachers were furloughed a year ago “due to a substantial decline in enrollment in the District” from 2004 to 2012 and because of that the arbitrator’s award has no basis in law or fact.
The document claims the award “clearly violates and/or is directly inconsistent” with Section 1125 of the Pennsylvania School Code.
The petition attempts to make clear that a memorandum of understanding reached and approved in July 2011 between the district and the Tunkhannock Area Education Association was a spur of the moment deal “for a term of one year and one year only.”
The school district argues that it was only after the teachers were furloughed last June that TAEA “took the position that the agreement was not a one year deal, but instead would last in perpetuity.”
The document claims the arbitrator “flat out ignored and never applied” well-established principles in his one-sentence conclusory finding.
“Under these circumstances,” the petition said, “the arbitrator’s unfounded award cannot stand and must be immediately vacated by this court to prevent a miscarriage of justice.”
During the school board’s June 20 meeting, board president Martin Migliori acknowledged that an appeal of the arbitrator’s award would be forthcoming but refused to speak to it because it was in litigation.
Board member Sandra Lane, however, said if the arbitrator’s award was held up and the 32 furloughed teachers were reinstated with full back pay, the district faced an expenditure of $1-1.5 million for 2012-13, and $2.1 million for 2013-14.