Traverse City Record-Eagle


June 16, 2009

TCAPS releases contract details, riles union

Unfair labor practice violation filed Friday

TRAVERSE CITY -- Administrators in Traverse City's public schools said they publicly released details of bargaining sessions with teachers to clear up rumors about lagging contract talks.

But teachers union leaders contend the district violated fair labor practices by disclosing specific information, typically kept confidential, about terms proposed by both sides.

The district Friday issued a press release that linked to a memo from Superintendent James Feil. The letter, dated June 10, was mailed to all teachers and copied to school board members, with the notice it would "be released publicly within a couple of days to dispel inaccurate information."

The district could face a shortfall of at least $8 million by 2010-11, the letter states. A breakdown of both sides' proposals was attached.

John Scrudato, president of the Traverse City Education Association, said he learned Thursday that administrators planned to release the information.

It was incorrectly implied, he said, that he leaked details to the public.

"I don't know what their basis is. To me, it's totally unfounded," Scrudato said. "This to me was kind of a pre-emptive strike to try to discredit the union."

Don Hakala, UniServ director with the Michigan Education Association, on Friday filed an unfair labor practice violation with the state. Hakala was out of the office Monday and could not be reached for further comment.

Administrators for months refused to comment about the status of negotiations, as has the TCEA.

Union Vice President Mary McGee-Cullen said there were several inaccurate statements in what the district released, but did not want to discuss the alleged differences because it would "sink to their level."

Feil would not comment specifically on any misstatements, but said the union could address their concerns with him.

Administrators and board members decided together to release the information in response to e-mails from teachers, many of which had incorrect information about finances and the district's proposals. Several board members said Monday they support the decision.

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