REGIONAL SCHOOL UNIT NO. 5
THE COASTAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
Argued May 12, 2015.
On the briefs: Donald F. Fontaine, Esq., Law Offices of Donald F. Fontaine, Portland, and Shawn C. Keenan, Esq., Maine Education Association, Augusta, for appellant The Coastal Education Association.
Peter C. Felmly, Esq., and Michael L. Buescher, Esq., Drummond Woodsum, Portland, for appellee Regional School Unit No. 5.
At oral argument: Donald F. Fontaine, Esq., for appellant The Coastal Education Association.
Peter C. Felmly, Esq., for appellee Regional School Unit No. 5.
Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HJELM, JJ.
[¶1] The Coastal Education Association (the Association), an affiliate of a union representing teachers, appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court (Cumberland County, Warren, J. ) vacating an arbitration award, which had required Regional School Unit No. 5 (RSU No. 5) to rescind an educational policy requiring that elementary school teachers be present in their classrooms ten minutes before the start of the instructional day. The court concluded that this dispute was not substantively arbitrable pursuant to the Municipal Public Employees Labor Relations Law (MPELRL), 26 M.R.S. § § 961-974 (2014), which prevents school boards from bargaining on matters of educational policy or submitting educational policy disputes to interest arbitration, see id. § 965(1)(C).
[¶2] The Association argues that the court erred in vacating the award because the record supported the arbitrator's finding that the challenged classroom policy had a greater effect on working conditions than on educational policy, and that the court's decision is contrary to the broad presumption favoring substantive arbitrability. The trial court was correct in its conclusion that the educational policy requiring teachers to be in their classrooms ten minutes before the start of the instructional day was, as a matter of law, not substantively arbitrable. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment.
I. CASE HISTORY
[¶3] The essential facts are not in dispute. In 2009, three Maine school districts--Freeport, Pownal, and Durham--merged to form RSU No. 5. In May 2012,
the Association and the Board of Directors of RSU No. 5 (the Board) executed a collective bargaining agreement that would take effect for the 2012-2013 academic year. Before the agreement was negotiated, Freeport teachers, unlike teachers in Pownal and Durham, were not obligated to arrive at their schools until the very moment that the instructional day began. The Board became concerned that elementary students in Freeport were congregating outside their classrooms and not entering the classrooms until the start of the instructional day when teachers arrived. Thereafter, students took some time to settle down before the instructional process could actually begin.
[¶4] During negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement, the Board took the position that teachers should be available to meet with parents during the ten-minute period before the start of the school day. The parties agreed to include in article 9(E) of the collective bargaining agreement a requirement (the ten-minute requirement) that " [a]ll educators will be in the building ten (10) minutes before the beginning of their defined instructional day . . . . Educators recognize that they have a responsibility to be in their rooms and ready to start the student day at the beginning of each school day." There was no expectation on the part of the Board that teachers would have an obligation to engage in instructional activities during this ten-minute period.
[¶5] Article 9(B) of the collective bargaining agreement codified an understanding between the parties that several aspects of management of the school day--namely " the length of the instructional day, amount of teaching time, planning and preparation time, and meeting times during the instructional day" --were matters of educational policy and would be subject to the ...