OGDEN -- The American Federation of Teachers, Utah chapter, has accused the Ogden School Board of breaking two Utah laws and has requested the board release documents and recordings related to non-negotiated teacher contracts sent out in July.
"We are involved because the ramifications to AFT and to other public employee labor organizations in the state are horrendous," said Cal Udy, an AFT labor relations representative who last week delivered two Government Records Access and Management Act information requests to Ogden School District.
"What the district's actions amount to is taking away teachers' rights to bargain, and making them indentured servants."
AFT plans to turn the requested information over to three labor attorneys to determine if laws have been broken, he said.
AFT also requested information related to the appointment of Brad C. Smith as new district superintendent after the resignation of Noel R. Zabriskie. Smith served as an Ogden School Board member until he resigned last week to take on superintendent duties.
Udy believes Smith's appointment was unlawful because his appointment was required to take place in a public meeting. Smith's swearing in was done in a public meeting Tuesday night at district headquarters after Udy turned in his Aug. 30 GRAMA requests.
Udy also contends that Smith's appointment is unlawful because Smith does not have an administrative license held by most Utah school district superintendents. Utah code requires those without an administrative license to obtain a letter of permission to serve as superintendent from the State Board of Education.
Udy asked Ogden School District to provide the requested information within 10 business days, which would be by Sept. 14. The district will be allowed to set a reasonable fee for work and materials involved, and Udy said he is ready to pay.
Smith said Ogden School District always replies to GRAMA requests.
"Anyone can request government information at any time," he said. "It is not up to us to judge merits."
Udy provided the Standard- Examiner with copies of the two GRAMA request letters, which ask for:
- All documentation that provides evidence that the new superintendent is qualified for his position.
- All documentation that the superintendent job was posted, that there was an earnest search for a superintendent, and that there were interviews, etc., conducted to find the most qualified individual, including those of the protected classes.
- Minutes of school board meetings for the last two years (written and recorded).
- Documents of the impasse that were kept in regard to the undermining of the unions that represent teachers, and the change in contracts sans ratification of teachers.
- Letters that were sent to teachers regarding their employment for the last year, since January 2011 to the current time, to include the letter demanding they sign their contracts by a certain date or find another job, and the most current one, introducing the new superintendent.
- Copy of all policies and procedures and any other pertinent documents affecting hiring, retention and promotion.
The AFT letters also charged that the Ogden School Board had broken Utah laws with Smith's appointment, because of his lack of an administrative certificate or letter from the state Board of Education waiving that requirement; and because of the board's failure to post the job opening and seek applicants from outside the district.
The letter also stated the board broke the law in "refusing unions the right to be, and the fear you put into your teachers for being union members."
Smith said he was both appointed and sworn in as superintendent at public meetings, and he had written to the Utah School Board requesting the waiver.
"I don't believe they will deny it," he said.
OSD Human Resources Director Brenda Ruffier said last week that school districts are not required to post jobs if they hire a current employee, such as Smith.
The district is working on the AFT request, Smith said.
"We are still working to see how much work this will entail, and the volume," he said. "Putting together the recorded minutes is the most problematic."
Council sessions that were closed to the public for legal reasons will have to be deleted, Smith said.
Ogden School District may need to seek an extension because of the volume of records requested, he said.
"They could help us out if they choose to focus on a particular time frame, but that's up to them," Smith said.
"It could be needlessly voluminous. We are looking into ways to get them what they want without consuming an entire rain forest."