Direct Appeal from Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board No. 2006-RS-0002-C.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Steigmann
Petitioner, the Board of Education of Glenview Community Consolidated School District No. 34 (District), appeals from a March 2006 final order of respondent Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (Board), in which the Board determined that the position of administrative assistant to the director of technology (technology administrative assistant) in the District was included in a bargaining unit represented by respondent Glenview Professional Association, IEA/NEA (Association). We affirm the Board's order.
In September 2005, the Association filed a petition with the Board, seeking to add the technology administrative assistant position to a bargaining unit represented by the Association. Later that month, the District filed a response, arguing that the technology administrative assistant position was "confidential," pursuant to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (115 ILCS 5/2(n) (West 2004)).
At an October 2005 hearing on the petition conducted by an administrative law judge (ALJ), the evidence showed the following. At the end of the 2003-04 school year, the District created a new full-time position of technology administrative assistant. That position combined some of the duties of a former full-time network technician with the duties of a former part-time administrative assistant. The District's technology department also includes the director of educational technology (Brian Engle), the network manager (Kelly Conwell), and four network engineers. The network engineers report to work at individual school buildings and are responsible for day-to-day troubleshooting in those buildings. The technology administrative assistant position reports to work in the District's administrative building, along with the director of educational technology and the network manager.
The job description for the technology administrative assistant indicates that the purpose of the position is "to provide administrative and secretarial support to ensure the smooth operations of school[-]related and business functions" of the District. The job description also lists the following job responsibilities: (1) provide support to the director of educational technology, network manager, and network engineers; (2) coordinate technology purchases; (3) coordinate inventory of software and hardware; (4) maintain the District's voice mail, e-mail, and telephone systems; (5) coordinate telephone system service activities; (6) coordinate new staff members' access to the District's network and PowerSchool (a software program that allows the District to track student attendance and report grades); (7) maintain group e-mail lists; (8) provide support with computer-software applications; (9) develop and download data sets for certain assessment systems; and (10) assist in the technology budgeting process. The job description also indicates that the technology administrative assistant should have the "[a]bility to handle confidential information," but it does not specify the nature of such confidential information.
Marilyn Miller testified on the District's behalf that she had been the District's executive director of human resources for 12 years, until her retirement in June 2005. The technology administrative assistant position was first advertised prior to the start of the 2004-05 school year. An individual was hired and held that position from September 2004 through December 2004. Margaret Coons was then hired as the technology administrative assistant.
As the executive director of human resources, Miller's responsibilities included hiring, making tenure recommendations, overseeing applications and evaluations, addressing salary issues, working with labor-relations groups, and serving on the labor-relations management committee. During the last round of labor negotiations with the Association, Miller was on the District's negotiating team. Miller and her administrative assistants regularly used their computers to draft policies and salary proposals, saved those documents to the human-resources shared folder, and e-mailed documents and messages to other administrators regarding negotiations and grievance settlements. She also attached documents to her e-mails to share with school-board members and the District's attorneys. Miller did not recall ever personally showing any confidential labor-relations documents to the technology administrative assistant or to the predecessor to that position--namely, the former full-time network technician.
Engle testified on the District's behalf that he had been the director of educational technology for about one year. The director of educational technology is responsible for the District's technology department, educational technology, and assuring that technology is being appropriately integrated into the classrooms. The technology administrative assistant is one of three technology employees in the administration building who perform troubleshooting duties. The network manager is responsible for the District's entire network, while the network engineers are responsible for "the day-to-day troubleshooting work on the computers." In addition to performing "clerical" duties, the technology administrative assistant provides "level[-]one" technology support to staff members in the administrative building. Engle described level-one troubleshooting as "quick troubleshooting" involving "easy issues." The technology administrative assistant also adds users to the District's network, which involves using a program called WorkGroup Manager to create new user accounts, maintain user names and passwords, and grant access to e-mail groups. The technology administrative assistant is one of eight staff members who possess the master password that allows for computer troubleshooting. If Engle and Conwell are both out of the administrative building, staff members could ask Coons to assist them in retrieving lost documents. To do so, she would be expected to use the master password to try to find the document on the server, desktop, or hard drive. Engle stated that when he and Conwell are not in their offices, they are available via cellular phone or can be contacted through the help desk. When asked if Coons uses the master password to retrieve lost documents "in the regular course of her job duties," Engle replied as follows: "I don't know the percentage or the amount because she would only do it if [I was] not in the building." Engle also stated that Coons "could be" expected to retrieve or repair files in which collective-bargaining information is stored. Coons "might come across" a labor-relations document when (1) a staff member is locked out of a file and Coons uses WorkGroup Manager to re-establish the staff member's permission to access the file or (2) she is performing "face-to-face troubleshooting." The technology administrative assistant is not responsible for "system tape backups."
Engle also testified that the technology administrative assistant is required to maintain confidentiality with respect to network security and any information encountered while troubleshooting. If Coons were to access a staff member's e-mail account, that staff member would know because Coons would be required to change the staff member's password to access the account. However, if Coons were working at a staff member's workstation, no one would know whether she accessed an e-mail or other document. Engle stated that Coons had never seen a confidential labor-relations document.
Jill Engel testified on the District's behalf that she had been the District's director of human resources since July 2005. In that capacity, she oversees all employment matters for the District. She is also on the labor-relations committee, where she deals with issues related to the formation of the District's policies and procedures. The next round of labor negotiations with the Association was scheduled to begin in February 2006, and Engel planned to be a member of the negotiating team. She anticipated using her computer to create documents containing proposals and analyses on economic issues, saving those documents to a subfolder within the shared human-resources folder. Engel also expected to use e-mail to communicate with other administrators regarding labor-relations issues.
Engel also testified that she considered the technology administrative assistant position more technology related than secretarial or administrative. Engel considered Coons the "goto" person for technology-related issues in the administration building. However, she did not know how much time Coons spent performing troubleshooting duties. Engel preferred not to ask Engle or Conwell for technology-related assistance because it takes them away from their duties in the individual schools. However, if Coons is not available, she asks either Engle or Conwell for assistance. On one occasion when Coons helped Engel with an e-mail issue, the subject-matter lines of Engel's e-mails were displayed. Engel could "almost guarantee" that some of those e-mails had subject matter that "related to sensitive issues that could be related to" labor-relations issues.
Coons testified on the Association's behalf that in January 2005, she began working in the technology administrative assistant position. The majority of her job duties involve administrative duties, such as obtaining price quotes on computer-related equipment and software, placing orders per requests from the network manager, keeping inventory of hardware and software products, and calling outside vendors for needed computer support. She has access to the technology budget and the technology accounts, but the business office must provide her with access to other accounts. In addition, Coons is responsible for "add[ing] users to the District's network" by creating new user accounts and assigning to the new users various computer privileges, such as e-mail accounts and access to group e-mails and group folders. After assigning a new staff member an e-mail username and password, Coons instructs the staff member to change his password. Coons would then be required to "go in and actually change the password for that individual" if she wanted to access that staff member's e-mail account. Coons' job entails similar responsibilities for the voice-mail system. Coons has never been asked to read any staff member's e-mails.
Coons also testified that the majority of the troubleshooting duties are performed by the network manager. Coons has never used the District's remote desktop to access computer files or drafts of documents, and she does not know how to do so. Instead, the network manager performs such duties. Coons stated that if a staff member has problems with her e-mail password, Coons "wouldn't even venture to try and help." Instead, she would direct that staff member to the network manager, who "knows the ins and outs of e-mail." Nor has Coons ever been assigned to look at any labor-relations materials. The only confidential material that may have "ever crossed [her] desk" was students' standardized test scores. Coons has taught other staff members how to make charts using the Excel software program and had given Engel access to an e-mail group that included staff members for the primary grades. Giving Engel that access did not require Coons to enter Engel's e-mail account or view any of Engel's e-mails. Instead, ...