In the Matter of the Arbitration
of a Dispute Between
GIBRALTAR SCHOOL DISTRICT
GIBRALTAR EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
Mr. Dennis Muehl, Executive Director, Bayland Teachers United, 1136 North Military Avenue, Green Bay, Wisconsin 54303, on behalf of the Association.
Mr. Jeffery M. Weir, Pinkert, Smith, Weir, Jinkins, Nesbitt & Hauser, P.O. Box 89, 454 Kentucky Street, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin 53235, on behalf of the District.
According to the terms of the 1993-1995 collective bargaining agreement between the Gibraltar Board of Education (hereafter District) and Gibraltar Area Education Association (hereafter Association), the parties requested that the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission designate a member of its staff to act as impartial arbitrator to resolve a dispute between them regarding the proper placement on the salary schedule of teacher Nancy Akerly for the 1994-95 school year. The Commission designated Sharon A. Gallagher arbitrator. A hearing was scheduled and held on February 16, 1995, at Fish Creek, Wisconsin. No stenographic transcript of the proceedings was made. By agreement of the parties, the parties waived their right to submit post hearing briefs and orally argued the case before the close of the record on February 17, 1995.
The parties stipulated that the following issues should be determined in this case:
Did the Gibraltar School District violate the 1994-95 salary schedule, Appendix III, as referred to in Article XIII, paragraph E, Salary Schedule, of the Master Agreement by denying Nancy Akerly the use of 21 graduate credits earned prior to receiving a Master's degree to be used to advance beyond the Master's degree to MA plus 18.
If so, what is the appropriate remedy?
Relevant Contract Provisions:
The contract contains no specific language regarding placement on the salary schedule for credits earned.
B. All teachers will be reimbursed the tuition fees for six (6) credits every five years. Additional courses taken upon request of the administration will also qualify.
To be eligible for reimbursement, the following requirements are to be met:
1. Credits must be approved by the Superintendent prior to attendance.
2. Credits earned must be for professional improvement in the area of applicable courses in the fields of education or psychology and including courses accepted towards the earning of the next degree in the teaching field.
3. Courses must be from an accredited college or university.
4. An official transcript must be filed with the Superintendent before reimbursement can be made.
5. The responsibility for filing an application for reimbursement shall rest with the teacher.
BA BA+06 BA+12 BA+18 BA+24 1 22934 23278 23622 23966 24310 2 24140 24484 24828 25172 25516 3 25347 25691 26035 26379 26723 4 26553 26897 27241 27585 27929 5 27759 28103 28447 28791 29135 6 28966 29310 29654 29998 30342 7 30172 30516 30860 31204 31548 8 31378 31722 32066 32410 32754 9 32585 32929 33273 33617 33961 10 33791 34135 34479 34823 35167 11 34997 35341 35685 36029 36373 12 36204 36548 36892 37236 37580 13 37410 37754 38098 38442 38786 14 39364 39708 40052 40396 40740
MA MA+06 MA+12 MA+18 MA+24 1 24654 24998 25342 25686 26030 2 25860 26204 26548 26892 27236 3 27067 27411 27755 28099 28443 4 28273 28617 28961 29305 29649 5 29479 29823 30167 30511 30855 6 30686 31030 31374 31718 32062 7 31892 32236 32580 32924 33268 8 33098 33442 33786 34130 34474 9 34305 34649 34993 35337 35681 10 35511 35855 36199 36543 36883 11 36717 37061 37405 37749 38093 12 37924 38268 38612 38956 39300 13 39130 39474 39818 40162 40500 14 41084 41428 41772 42116 42460
The grievant, Nancy Akerly, began working for the District in 1971. She has worked for the District for 20 of the past 24 years. (1) Akerly has taught Kindergarten, First Grade, Fifth Grade, Sixth Grade and Seventh and Eighth Grade Math and Computer Science. For the past five years, Akerly has been employed as the Coordinator of the Gifted and Talented Program at the District.
When Akerly was hired by the District she had two graduate credits which she had earned before receiving her BA degree in 1971. Despite this, the District placed Akerly at the BA+0 lane at the time of hire. The evidence further showed that the District never gave Akerly any credit for placement on the salary schedule for the two graduate credits she had received in 1971.
In August, 1994, Akerly received her Master's Degree from the Viterbo College. Viterbo College credited Akerly with 36 credits for receipt of her Master's Degree, as follows:
|August, 1994||Master of Arts in Education Degree||Viterbo College|
|1. 1987, Summer||Mundelein College||A||RST 6603 Creative Writing||3|
|2. 1989, Fall||Portland State||A||Excellence in Teaching||3|
|3. 1990, Feb.||Boston University||A||EM
591, Computers in|
Education - Software
|4. 1990, Feb.||Boston University||A||EM
592, Computers in|
Education - Lab
|5. 1990, May||Boston University||A||Study of Teaching||3|
|6. 1993, March||Viterbo College||A||Literature Based Reading||3|
|7. 1993, April||Viterbo College||A||Whole Lang/Natural||3|
|8. 1993, July||Viterbo College||A||Educational Research 1||3|
|9. 1993, July||Viterbo College||A||Philosophical Perspectives||3|
|10. 1993, August||Viterbo College||A||Mission of Teaching||3|
|11. 1994, Spring||Viterbo College||A||Educational Research II||3|
|12. 1994, August||Viterbo College||A||Independent
|13. 1994, August||Viterbo College||A||Professional Seminar||3|
However, Akerly had earned the following additional graduate credits in excess of the 36 she needed for her Master's degree by 1994:
Additional Graduate Credits
|1. 1971, January||SMU||P||1-95, Communication Skills||2|
|2. 1980, Spring||U of W - GB||A||G595 Gifted & Talented Students||1|
|3. 1980, Summer||Northern Mich U||S||ED 4918, Creativity &
|4. 1982, Spring||U of W - GB||A||G695
|5. 1982, Spring||Cardinal Stritch||A||Ed
590W Hunter - Teach More|
|6. 1981, Summer||Cardinal Stritch||A||Teacher Effectiveness Training||3|
|7. 1984, Summer||U of W - Oshkosh||A||16-710 Conferencing Techniques||3|
|8. 1985, Fall||Coll. of St. Thomas||A||CE707Z Maximizing Potential||3|
|9. 1986, Spring||Coll. of St. Thomas||A||CE578Z Total Learning||3|
|10. 1993, June||U of W - GB||A||Intro to Hypercard||1|
|Total Credits Beyond MA||21 Total|
There is no dispute in this case regarding credit reimbursement for Akerly. The sole issue here is whether Akerly should have properly been placed at the MA+18 lane at the time she received her Master's Degree because she had previously earned more than 18 graduate credits in excess of those she needed for her MA degree. The facts demonstrated that Akerly was moved on the salary schedule for all of the graduate credits she earned after receiving her BA degree, from BA+6 to BA+12 to BA+18 to BA+24. As the next lane on the salary schedule was MA+0, Akerly could not receive movement on the salary grid for the additional 33 graduate credits she earned beyond a BA+24 credits.
District Administrator Dahlstrom, employed by the District as its Administrator for the past four years, stated that he found in his investigation that no District teacher has ever been given credit for advancement beyond a Master's Degree on the salary grid for excess graduate credits earned before receiving the MA degree. Dahlstrom stated that for the 1982-83 school year, Akerly was placed on the BA+6 lane at a time when her personnel records showed that she had earned 8 graduate credits.
Positions of the Parties:
The Association admitted that there was no evidence of a past practice controlling this issue. In addition, the Association admitted that the record evidence failed to show that Akerly had been given any salary credit for the two graduate credits she had earned before receiving her BS degree.
However, the Association observed that all of the post graduate credits that Akerly earned after her hire the District had recognized for payment on the salary grid. The fact that Akerly had received her MA degree in 1994 should not result in her losing graduate credits. The Association then implied that because the District has had the advantage of Akerly's knowledge, it should pay for this knowledge and that there are other employes who have taken the same courses as Akerly and who have received movement on the salary grid therefor.
The Association urged that the instant grievance should be sustained and that Akerly should be placed on the salary schedule at the MA+18 lane. The Association asserted that the Weston School District case, (2) offered by the District for arbitral notice in this proceeding, is likely to be distinguishable from the instant case on the facts of each case.
The District urged that Article IX, although not specifically on point for this case, contains language which requires that ". . . credits earned must be for professional improvement . . . including courses accepted towards (sic) the earning of the next degree in the teaching field." This language, the District urged, demonstrates that the parties intended that the District should pay only for graduate credits according to the salary grid up to BA+24 and then for credits earned after receipt of the MA degree.
The District argued that the Association has failed to prove that a past practice existed to support a conclusion that Akerly must be moved to the MA+18 lane. Rather, the District noted, the evidence showed that no other District teacher had ever been given credit beyond a Master's Degree for graduate credits previously earned at the time they received their Master's Degree and were moved to the MA+0 lane. The District asserted that it was highly unlikely that all District teachers who previously received their Master's Degrees had the exact number of credits to receive those degrees before moving to the MA+0 lane.
The District offered an arbitration award in Weston School District, supra, for the proposition that there is a potentially harsh affect in allowing teachers to leap over steps of the salary grid by granting salary advancement after an advanced degree is earned for courses taken before that degree was earned. When a teacher earns their Master's Degree, the District contended, it is logical and fair to require them to earn additional credits for payment on the salary schedule after receiving their degrees.
Therefore the District sought denial and dismissal of the grievance in its entirety.
The labor agreement is silent on the specific issue presented in this case. In addition, the evidence failed to show the existence of any District past practice moving teachers on the salary grid beyond the MA lane for graduate credits teachers have earned before receiving their Master's Degrees. Also, in my view, the language of Article IX is not relevant to the issues raised by this case. That language deals specifically with the procedure teachers must follow to receive reimbursement for tuition fees spent on credits earned.
This record is devoid of any evidence showing that any District teacher has ever been given credit on the salary grid for graduate credits earned before they earned their Master's degrees. Indeed, the record showed that the Grievant was not given salary advancement credit for the two graduate credits she earned prior to receiving her Bachelor's degree. In addition, I note that the salary grid in the parties' labor agreement contains a lane progression from BA + 24 to the MA lane with no recognition for credits taken beyond BA + 24 credits before a teacher gains their Master's degree. This fact supports a conclusion that the parties did not intend to remunerate teachers on the salary grid for any graduate credits they earned beyond BA + 24, even though many Master's programs require up to 36 credits for completion. This salary progression scheme also supports a conclusion that the parties intended to require teachers to attain their Master's degrees before they move to the MA + 6, etc., lane and that teachers should first attain the MA lane before they can move further horizontally on the grid after taking additional graduate credits beyond their Master's degree. Had the parties intended to allow for the lane progression sought by the Grievant in this case, they could have specifically described this in the labor agreement. They chose not to do this, making it reasonable to conclude, based upon the contract, the record evidence and the argument herein, that they never intended teachers to receive movement on the salary grid for all graduate credits earned.
Therefore, there appears to be no intent demonstrated by the parties that they desired all teachers to be paid on the salary grid for all graduate credits earned prior to earning their Master's degrees as if those credits had been earned after receipt of their Master's degrees. Rather, the contract states that no graduate credits beyond BA + 24 should be paid on the salary grid and it implies that the parties intended that teachers should first attain the MA lane before moving further horizontally through attaining more credits.
In all of the circumstances of this case and in the absence of any past practice supporting the Association's arguments herein, I find that there is insufficient evidence to show that the Grievant must be moved on the salary grid to the MA + 18 lane and I issue the following
Gibraltar School District did not violate the 1994-95 salary schedule, Appendix III, as referred to in Article XIII, paragraph E Salary schedule, of the Master Agreement, by denying Nancy Akerly the use of 21 graduate credits earned prior to receiving a Master's degree to be used to advance beyond the Master's degree to MA + 18.
The grievance is therefore denied and dismissed in its entirety.
Dated at Madison, Wisconsin this 28th day of April, 1995.
By Sharon A. Gallagher /s/
Sharon A. Gallagher, Arbitrator
1. Akerly took a four year unpaid leave of absence to stay at home for two years and to teach in Germany for two years. Akerly then returned to work for the District.
2. Case 27, No. 50751, MA-8374 (Burns, 12/94).