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Cobden Unit School District No. 17 v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board and Cobden Education

February 28, 2012

COBDEN UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 17, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
ILLINOIS EDUCATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD AND COBDEN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, IEA-NEA, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES. COBDEN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, IEA-NEA, PETITIONER,
v.
ILLINOIS EDUCATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD AND COBDEN UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 17, RESPONDENTS.



Petition for Review of Order of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board No. 2008 CA 23S

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Quinn

Consolidated

PRESIDING JUSTICE QUINN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.*fn1

Justice Lampkin concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice R. Gordon dissented, with opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Petitioner Cobden Unit School District No. 17 (District) seeks direct administrative review of a decision by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) that the District violated section 14(a)(1) of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (Act) (115 ILCS 5/14(a)(1) (West 2006)) by refusing to arbitrate a grievance filed by the Cobden Education Association, IEA-NEA (Association) on behalf of Spencer Cox, a non-tenured teacher with the District (appeal No. 1-10-1716). In a separate appeal the Association seeks review of the IELRB's finding that the District did not violate the Act when it refused to arbitrate over the Association's contention that the District failed to provide just cause for the non-renewal decision (appeal No. 1-10-1777). These appeals have been consolidated. We reverse in part, affirm in part and remand to the IELRB with directions.

¶ 2 The District is an educational employer as defined in section 2(a) of the Act (115 ILCS 5/2(b) (West 2006)). The Association is a labor organization as defined in section 2(c) of the Act and the exclusive representative of all employees employed by the District. On March 19, 2007, the District's board of education (Board) voted not to renew Spencer Cox's employment for the 2007-08 school year. At the time of his non-renewal, Cox was a third-year non-tenured teacher with the District, an educational employee within the meaning of section 2(b) of the Act and a member of the bargaining unit represented by the Association.

¶ 3 On April 16, 2007, the Association filed a grievance on behalf of Cox, alleging that the District violated articles VI, VII and XIII of the parties' collective bargaining agreement (agreement) by its "constructive discharge of Mr. Spencer Cox in violation of his specific rights of employment, a disciplinary act."

¶ 4 The grievance first alleged the District violated article XIII in that it: "failed to follow the District Evaluation Plan in documenting weaknesses that may have been remediable and by failing to establish a remediation plan. The District failed to follow the Evaluation Plan to help Spencer Cox correct any noted defects in his teaching [and] therefore relied upon extra[ ]contractual procedures in deciding not to renew this third year teacher ***. The district fails to give any irremediable cause for non-renewal of employment."

¶ 5 Article XIII, entitled "Employee Evaluation," reads:

"A staff evaluation committee, consisting of two members appointed by the Association President and two administrators appointed by the superintendent, shall be established to review the staff evaluation plan. The committee shall meet each March. Any recommendations for changes in said plan shall be submitted to the Superintendent for review and consideration by the Board of Education."

¶ 6 Next, the grievance alleged the District violated article VII:

"In addition the District failed to maintain a personnel file as required, in that when Spencer Cox and his Association Representative went to review materials which may have been used in determining a decision for non[]renewal, found that the file contained no evidence that would support non[]renewal. The personnel file must contain the evidence and/or documentation used to justify evaluative or disciplinary decision[s]. Materials not contained in the employee's personnel file may not be used to evaluate or discipline the employee in any manner. The District is precluded from maintaining any other file that may be used for discipline or no[n]renewal of Spencer Cox."

¶ 7 Article VII, entitled "Personnel File," reads:

"7.1 Only one official file shall be maintained. No evaluative materials shall be placed in the file unless the employee has had an opportunity to read such material. The employee shall acknowledge that he/she has read any materials evaluative in nature by affixing his/her signature to the copy to be filed. Any materials not contained in the employee's personnel file[] may not be used to evaluate or discipline the employee in any manner.

7.2 Within thirty (30) days following the date any material is entered into the employee's personnel file, the employee shall have the right to respond and his/her response shall be attached to the file. The immediate supervisor will sign the response acknowledging that he/she read the material. A copy of the response will be provided to the immediate supervisor.

7.3 An employee shall have the right to examine his/her file and to have a representative of the Association accompany him/her in such a review. Each file shall contain a record indicating who has reviewed it, the date reviewed, and the reason for such review.

7.4 Upon request, the Employer will reproduce one (1) copy of any materials in the employee's personnel file."

ΒΆ 8 Finally, the grievance alleged the District violated article VI, section 2 of the ...


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