Toledo Public Schools administrators expanded a new employee-discipline approach in recent weeks, deciding to no longer recommend that staff be paid while they appeal terminations.
Administrators long had discretion on when to place employees on paid or unpaid suspension, depending on the circumstances of each case. But TPS officials under Superintendent Romules Durant’s leadership have adopted a new philosophy that employees won’t be kept on paid suspension if the district believes there is “good and just cause” for termination.
The new philosophy appears part of an approach by the Durant administration on employee accountability. A string of staff members have faced termination in recent months.
District staff who face misconduct allegations go before a hearing officer. In the past, if a hearing officer ruled an employee should be fired and the chief human resources officer supported the ruling, the employee would be allowed to appeal the ruling while on paid suspension, Chief of Staff Brian Murphy said.
Under the new approach, TPS leaders immediately forward a recommendation for termination to the school board. If the board approves, that means staff are technically fired during the appeal process, though they could win their jobs back. Mr. Murphy said district leaders will no longer recommend staff be paid as they appeal.
“Under Dr. Durant and this administration, we have core values that we live by,” Mr. Murphy said.
Board members have the ultimate say on employee discipline, and they had a chance at Tuesday’s meeting to implement the new approach, but decided to delay. Board President Cecelia Adams said that wasn’t an indication board members don’t support it.
“We just want to make sure we make a clear and clean cut from the past,” she said.
Union leaders say the new approach unnecessarily hamstrings administration. They also said TPS leaders did not inform them of the philosophical change; Toledo Federation of Teachers President Kevin Dalton said the first he heard of the new approach was when he was asked about it Tuesday evening by a reporter.
“Recently, I’m seeing them [TPS leaders] create policy without conferring with the bargaining units,” he said.
Don Yates, president of the Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel, said he learned about the policy from Ronald Spitulski, a district student-discipline appeals hearing officer who was placed on paid suspension Oct. 17. District officials have indicated they intend to fire Mr. Spitulski, who has asked a referee to consider his case.
Mr. Yates questioned whether the change is fair.
Administrators recommended that board members change Mr. Spitulski’s status to an unpaid suspension, though board members pulled the recommendation from their agenda.
Mr. Spitulski is accused of using inappropriate language in a student’s suspension appeal, acting unprofessionally toward parents, failing to maintain accurate hearing records, and misplacing or not keeping audio recordings of hearings, as required by state law.
Board members also voted Tuesday to offer Treasurer Matthew Cleland a new contract.
He got a two-year contract in 2012, after taking the district’s top financial position several months prior when former treasurer Dan Romano resigned.
Board members are expected to vote on Mr. Cleland’s contract at their March meeting.