2018-09-13 / News

Retaliation claimed by school staff regarding overtime pay

By Tanya Terry
810-452-2645 • tterry@mihomepaper.com

BURTON — An official grievance filed by Atherton Community Schools staff Tom DeVaney and Steve Powers filed Feb. 2 for an unpaid stipend has not been resolved as of yet.

DeVaney previously sued the school district for unlawful discharge and received a judgement under the Whistleblower’s Act.

DeVaney said he felt the current circumstance was due to ongoing retaliation from the district’s superintendent because of the previous settlement DeVaney was given.

In a 2014 case, DeVaney had reported to police that a student had brought drugs into the school building, a male student sexually assaulted a female student by exposing his penis to her and DeVaney had saved the life of a suicidal young girl. DeVaney argued the district’s superintendent issued a written memo directing DeVaney not to make reports to police about such matters. DeVaney said the superintendent, John Ploof, convinced the board to demote DeVaney from principal to a dean position, for which DeVaney said the duties were actually that of a truancy officer.

DeVaney was placed on an administrative leave for one year and paid $93,000 during his time off. When he returned to work, he was brought back as a special education teacher instead of a dean.

In another case thrown out in summer disposition, DeVaney sent an email to the superintendent saying he was interested in a director of curriculum and instructional services position; an administrative position that would have offered DeVaney about $30,000 more yearly than he was making as a special education teacher. Ploof never responded to the email, DeVaney was never interviewed for the position and someone else was hired.

Powers and DeVaney more recently attended an afterschool conference/workshop at the Genesee Intermediate School District on Jan. 17 of this year that meets the requirements within the Master Agreement between Atherton Education Association and the Atherton Board of Education, which calls for them to receive their stipend pay for the fist semester that ended on Jan. 26, according to the official grievance statement.

The Master Agreement states beginning with the 11th year of seniority within the district, teachers are eligible to receive annually a maximum of $600 to attend two pre-approved workshops at $300 for each workshop. Beginning with the 15th year of seniority, teachers are eligible to receive annually a maximum of $800 to attend two pre-approved workshops at $400 each workshop. The agreement further states payment for attending the workshops will be made at the end of the semester in which the class was taken if the appropriate documentation has been submitted.

Powers and DeVaney were both pre-approved to attend the conference they attended and both met the timeline to receive payment on the Feb. 2 pay schedule. On Feb. 2, after both Powers and DeVaney reviewed their payroll history, neither party received their stipend pay.

Atherton Community Schools superintendent replied to the Level 2 Grievance on Feb. 21. His response included the following: As noted on the Atherton Community Schools Professional Development Stipend Request Form, a stipend is earned after six hours of professional development is completed. This standard was established in 2010 and been used as the criteria for all stipend requests to insure consistency with all bargaining unit members.

The grievance states Ploof’s arbitrary decision to create his own six-hour standard has never been agreed upon with any Atherton Education Association bargaining unit. The grievance states a form with Ploof’s signature has the signature has the date 2/2/18 crossed out and Ploof handwrote “paid at end of year” though the Master Agreement requires payment be made instead at the end of the semester if appropriate documentation is submitted.

After much email correspondence, MEA uniserv Bruce Jordan wrote DeVaney telling him a settlement agreement for the grievance is being drafted and once it’s complete and Ploof reviews it, he would send it to Jodan to review. Jordan assured Devaney in the email he would be paid and it was just a matter of paperwork and the agreement being right.

“The district does not discuss personnel matters with the press,” Ploof said.

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