State Bar of Wisconsin Return to Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission Awards

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In the Matter of the Arbitration

of a Dispute Between




Case 35

No. 51929



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.

. . .


BABA+06BA+12 BA+18BA+24
1229342327823622 2396624310
2241402448424828 2517225516
3253472569126035 2637926723
4265532689727241 2758527929
5277592810328447 2879129135
6289662931029654 2999830342
7301723051630860 3120431548
8313783172232066 3241032754
9325853292933273 3361733961
10337913413534479 3482335167
11349973534135685 3602936373
12362043654836892 3723637580
13374103775438098 3844238786
14393643970840052 4039640740
MAMA+06MA+12 MA+18MA+24
1246542499825342 2568626030
2258602620426548 2689227236
3270672741127755 2809928443
4282732861728961 2930529649
5294792982330167 3051130855
6306863103031374 3171832062
7318923223632580 3292433268
8330983344233786 3413034474
9343053464934993 3533735681
10355113585536199 3654336883
11367173706137405 3774938093
12379243826838612 3895639300
13391303947439818 4016240500
14410844142841772 4211642460


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, 1994Master of Arts in Education DegreeViterbo College
DateCollege/UniversityGradeClass Credits
1. 1987, SummerMundelein CollegeARST 6603 Creative Writing3
2. 1989, FallPortland StateAExcellence in Teaching3
3. 1990, Feb.Boston UniversityAEM 591, Computers in
Education - Software
4. 1990, Feb.Boston UniversityAEM 592, Computers in
Education - Lab
5. 1990, MayBoston UniversityAStudy of Teaching3
6. 1993, MarchViterbo CollegeALiterature Based Reading3
7. 1993, AprilViterbo CollegeAWhole Lang/Natural
8. 1993, JulyViterbo CollegeAEducational Research 13
9. 1993, JulyViterbo CollegeAPhilosophical Perspectives3
10. 1993, AugustViterbo CollegeAMission of Teaching3
11. 1994, SpringViterbo CollegeAEducational Research II3
12. 1994, AugustViterbo CollegeAIndependent Study-
13. 1994, AugustViterbo CollegeAProfessional Seminar 3
36 Total

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, JanuarySMUP1-95, Communication Skills2
2. 1980, SpringU of W - GBAG595 Gifted & Talented Students1
3. 1980, SummerNorthern Mich USED 4918, Creativity &
4. 1982, SpringU of W - GBAG695 Teaching/Guiding the
5. 1982, SpringCardinal StritchAEd 590W Hunter - Teach More
6. 1981, SummerCardinal StritchATeacher Effectiveness Training3
7. 1984, SummerU of W - OshkoshA16-710 Conferencing Techniques3
8. 1985, FallColl. of St. ThomasACE707Z Maximizing Potential3
9. 1986, SpringColl. of St. ThomasACE578Z Total Learning3
10. 1993, JuneU of W - GBAIntro to Hypercard1
Total Credits Beyond MA21 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).