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Turnaround arbitration to take place with uncharacteristic speed

Arbitration that will determine whether the city can move forward with its plans to “turn around” 24 struggling schools is set to take place with uncharacteristic speed.

Earlier this month, the teachers and principals unions sued to stop the turnarounds, charging that the city’s plans violated their contracts. A judge who was assigned to hear the lawsuit urged the two parties into arbitration, and the two parties agreed because it is important for the schools to have clarity soon about how to assemble their teaching rosters for the fall.

Arbitration can sometimes take months. But when the city and unions yesterday finalized the detailed terms under which arbitration will take place, they emphasized speed. According to their agreement, the two parties will meet with the arbitrator on three dates in June, starting June 7 and ending June 26. But if other dates open up, they’ll meet sooner, and they will meet in the early mornings and late at night until a resolution is reached. They are even asking the arbitrator to minimize the time spent on transitions between witnesses.

The agreement also offers more details about what could happen after the arbitrator makes his decision. If he rules in favor of the unions, any teacher who was not rehired at the turnaround schools would immediately be reassigned to his position. And any teacher that the turnaround schools’ principals hire from elsewhere in the city would snap back to their previous positions, as well. The same process would happen to the principals who were swapped around this spring at the beginning of the turnaround process.

But even if the arbitrator rules in the city’s favor, some hiring decisions might still be at risk of reversal. That’s because the city and UFT will enter a separate arbitration process over a dispute about who should sit on the schools’ hiring committees. The union appears to be suggesting that the committees should have more members than the five already appointed — a principal, two city representatives, and two union representatives. If the arbitrator supports the union’s position, the committees could get new members, and job offers they extended — or held back — before then could be reevaluated.

The legal document outlining the arbitration schedule is below.

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