Earlier this year, the OSBA Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) was asked to support the Tolles Career and Technical School Board of Education. The LAF board of trustees voted to write an amicus brief on behalf of the board and to provide assistance with the cost of the litigation. On November 21, the 12th Appellate District Court decided in favor of the board of education.
In the case, Tolles Career & Technical School Bd. of Edn. v. Tolles Edn. Assn., the court was asked to decide whether arbitration was appropriate to determine whether the board of education could include teacher attendance percentages in teacher evaluations. The education association argued that the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the parties created a duty to arbitrate the matter. The board of education argued that it had the right to evaluate its employees and that including attendance data was a decision within its professional judgment.
The lower court, noting the strong policy in favor of arbitration, found in the union’s favor and determined that the matter was a subject amenable to arbitration.
The court of appeals agreed with our LAF brief and overturned the lower court’s decision. It held that a board of education has the right to evaluate its employees and, barring any limiting provisions in the CBA, determine what data and factors may be included in the evaluations. The court reviewed the CBA and decided that it did not contain a rigid set of factors for consideration in evaluating employee performance. While the CBA provided some general guidance on the process for teacher evaluations, there was nothing that impaired the board's ability to consider attendance data within the context of those evaluations. As a result, the court found that the school board's decision to include attendance data was a matter of professional judgment that was consistent with the CBA and that the trial court erred in ordering the arbitration.
The Ohio School Boards Association Legal Assistance Fund is a trust fund established to provide supportive assistance to boards of education in cases or controversies of statewide significance primarily at the appellate level. School boards and educational service centers are encouraged to participate in LAF so that the collective power of their memberships can continue to support the fund and provide this important benefit. These links will take readers to more information about LAF, including answers to frequently asked questions and an application to join LAF. Please place consideration of joining LAF on your next board meeting agenda. Invoices were mailed to district treasurers this week, so please encourage your treasurer to remit payment after board approval.