Ruling on speech teachers proves added 37.5 minutes not a teaching period

by Maisie McAdoo

Sep 7, 2006 3:27 PM

Principals and other supervisors can no longer order speech teachers in non-District 75 schools to work an additional regular teaching period during the 37.5 minutes.

An arbitrator ruled on Aug. 28 that the Department of Education violated the contract when it assigned speech teachers in those schools during the 37.5 minutes to work with new students who were mandated to receive speech improvement services.

“This decision reinforces that the 37.5 minutes is not a regular teaching period,” said UFT President Randi Weingarten, who testified in the arbitration proceedings. “As arbitrator decisions are decisive interpreters of the contract, it should put the issue to rest once and for all.”

More than 1,000 speech teachers in non-District 75 schools are covered by the ruling.

The UFT brought the matter to arbitration when elementary schools in the Bronx and a smattering elsewhere in the school system began assigning speech teachers to additional therapy sessions with mandated students during the 37.5 minutes.

The dispute turned on the question of whether these teachers were supposed to teach new material during the extended time.

The contract says the 37.5 minutes is for small-group instruction, test preparation or tutorials.

“The speech teachers were the only group of teachers who were asked to provide the same type of services during the extended time that they would have provided during the regular school day,” said Mindy Karten Bornemann, the speech teachers chapter leader.

Scrutinizing the contract language, the arbitrator, Rosemary A. Townley, said, “The words ‘tutorials,’ ‘test preparation’ and small group instruction’ are all included in the same sentence and imply a form of teaching which is something less than what might occur during a regular classroom period.”

The arbitrator concluded that non-District 75 speech teachers should, like other teachers, “focus upon the reinforcement or remediation of work that a student is familiar with.”

The extended time, Townley said, “is to be comprised of ‘supportive’ teaching as opposed to ‘original’ teaching.”

The arbitrator also ruled that the speech teachers should be reimbursed on a pro-rata basis for any “original” work they performed with mandated students between February and June of this year. Submission of mandated reports would be proof of such work, she said.

The union will be pursuing arbitration on similar issues concerning speech teachers, occupational therapists and physical therapists in District 75.

— Deidre McFadyen 1