Two Waupaca High School teachers who received layoff notices in the fall of 2009 may be returning to the classroom.
John Emory, who arbitrated the dispute between the Waupaca School District and the Waupaca Teachers Association, ruled in favor of Tim Hiddemen and Doug Spadoni Tuesday, Nov. 9.
Emory ordered the district to recall Hiddemen and Spadoni and “make them whole for all wages and benefits to which they would have been entitled but for the layoffs.”
Hiddemen will be returning to the district on Nov. 22, according to District Administrator Dave Poeschl. He said Spadoni is currently teaching with the Mosinee School District and is being asked to return to the Waupaca School District on Dec. 6. As of Monday, Poeschl did not know if Spadoni would return to Waupaca.
At issue in the dispute was whether the district violated the teachers’ contract when it laid off teachers with less seniority in their area of experience and did not allow them to bump less senior teachers from areas for which they were certified.
In November 2009, the Waupaca School District sent a layoff notice to Cathy Wilhite, who taught emotional behavioral disabilities in the special education department at Waupaca High School.
Wilhite, who is also licensed to teach learning disabilities, opted to bump Spadoni, a less senior teacher in the special education department.
Spadoni then sought to bump into an alternative education position held by another less senior teacher, Shane Dornfeld. Spadoni is certified for alternative education, as well as special education.
Hiddemen was teaching computer science at the high school when he received his layoff notice. Because he is also certified to teach history and government, Hiddemen notified the district that he wished to bump Rudy Pate, a less senior teacher in the high school’s social studies department.
The school district denied the requests of both Hiddemen and Spadoni, who then filed grievances.
According to the district’s interpretation of the contract, elementary and middle school teachers are allowed to bump less senior teachers within their group, which is defined as the entire kindergarten through fifth grade for elementary teachers and the entire sixth through eighth grade for middle school teachers.
For high school teachers, however, the district said they could bump less senior teachers only within their own departments.
The teachers association held that the contract does not limit the right of teachers to bump within their own department, but allows them to bump teachers with less seniority in any area in which they are certified.
Emory found in favor of the teachers association, noting that high school teachers have the same bumping groupwide rights as elementary and middle school teachers as long as they are certified in the areas into which they seek to bump.
Poeschl said that while the district respects the process, it disagrees with the conclusion.
“This was a matter of interpretation by the arbitrator who was asked to clarify ambiguous language negotiated into the contract over 20 years ago,” Poeschl said.
Poeschl said that Pate will be bumped by Spadoni, but will be retained in the Waupaca School District for the 2010-11 school year using Education Jobs Fund monies.
Dornfeld will also be retained for the 2010-11 school year, using money from the Education Jobs Fund.
Poeschl said both Hiddemen and Spadoni would be teaching for the first time in the fields into which they have bumped.
“We expect them to be team teaching,” Poeschl said.