The Arlington County school board has unanimously adopted a new grievance procedure for county school employes that relies upon advisory arbitration to settle disputes. In the past, disputes were settled by binding arbitration.
A new procedure was made necessary by a Virginia Supreme Court decision last April, in which the court ruled that the state could not require local school systems to use binding arbitration.
School officials said last week the wording of that decision is unclear as to whether local jurisdictions, of their own accord, may choose binding arbitration.
At least two jurisdictions in the state, however, recently have adopted grievance procedures employing binding arbitration, board mambers said.
Majorie Sale, director of the Arlington Education Association (AEA) which represents approximately 900 county teachers, said "we are disappointed" that advisory arbitration was adopted.
"We would have preferred a grievance procedure that ended in binding arbitration," she said. "We operated with (binding arbitration) for a number of years and felt it worked well."
Although she stressed she was not implying that the school board "is not on the level," she said she was concerned that without binding arbitration the school board does not have to implement measures decided upon during advisory arbitration.
For instance, she said, the board could find a claim about an expense item justified and yet "say, 'Fine, but we don't want to spend the money.' " In that case, Sale said, the AEA would have no recourse but to prove in court that the board actions were illegal.
Sale said the arbitration provision was the only disappointing part of the new procedure. Otherwise "we are quite satisfied." The AEA "had a lot of input" in determining the new procedure, she said.
In other action last week, the Six-Year Planning Committee biennial assessment report was presented to the board by Gail Nuckols, chairman of the committee.
According to the report, students are doing well in reading and writing skills, though computational skills at the elementary level "are less than desired." The report recommends that the schools "increase emphasis on (the computation) aspect of mathematics."
Expansion of the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program also should be stressed, the report said.
The report will be filed with the State Board of Education in January as an appendix to the Six-Year Plan.