The only speech pathologist in Brookfield schools won her arbitration case against the school board in a ruling that entitles her to return to her job full time and receive back pay from the beginning of the school year.

Susan McBride, who has 20 years’ experience in the district, was one of 18 certified employees the board voted in April to lay off for the 2006-07 school year.

The board rejected Mrs. McBride’s grievance to return to work full time, but rehired her in June on a part-time basis.

Sally Schneider, president of Brookfield Federation of Teachers, testified at Mrs. McBride’s arbitration hearing on Aug. 24 that Superintendent Michael Notar initially told her Mrs. McBride was reduced to part time for financial reasons, but later said it was because the speech program had changed.

The board ultimately based its rejection of Mrs. McBride’s grievance on the district’s declining enrollment, according to documents contained in arbiter Philip W. Parkinson’s ruling.

At the hearing, Notar testified that he consulted with the Trumbull County Educational Service Center, which determined that only 3è days of speech services would adequately provide for the district’s students.

In his ruling, Parkinson said it is clear that Brookfield’s enrollment is declining — from 1,568 students in 2000-01 to 1,395 last year — but that the workload in speech pathology has not decreased during that time.

The question then, according to Parkinson, is why speech pathology should be reduced to part time when the number of students who need that service did not decline.

Parkinson, of Washington, Pa., and a member of the Federal Mediation Conciliation Service, sided with the union.

He said in his ruling the superintendent did not abide by the teachers’ contract that requires him to present plans implementing a part-time position to the union at least one month in advance.

“Had this been done, the parties may have perhaps been able to resolve the issue,” Parkinson wrote.

Notar testified he talked with Mrs. Schneider, but the union did not request a meeting. If asked, he said he would have met with them.

“This misses the point,” Parkinson wrote.

Parkinson said the burden falls on the school board to present its plans to the union at least a month ahead of time before making a position part time.

“The Board of Education failed to make clear why the Grievant’s full time position should be reduced and why she should be recalled to a part-time position when the planned workload for 2006-07 is comparable to the workload in 2005-06,” Parkinson wrote.

The teachers’ contract provides that the arbiter’s ruling is final and binding, but it is unclear if the board will appeal the decision. It has yet to return Mrs. McBride, the wife of former board member John McBride, to work full time.

“We are waiting for the board to institute that,” Mrs. Schneider said Friday.

She said Mrs. McBride is working part time with the expectation she will be paid for a full-time job, a situation the board created that “people need to know about.”

A message left on Notar’s cell phone Friday was not returned.

Attorneys for both sides continue to work on who should pay the legal fees for the proceeding, Mrs. Schneider said.

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