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Teacher layoffs spark union grievance at George Washington High School

The Denver teachers union is saying that the decision to lay off three teachers at George Washington High School did not pass through the proper channels.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association filed a grievance last week, alleging the meeting violated the state’s open meetings law. The law, nicknamed the “Sunshine” law, requires that state-affiliated committees hold public meetings and announce them at least 24 hours in advance.

“They didn’t follow the Sunshine law,” said David Singer, a union representative. “They didn’t follow [Collaborative School Committee] bylaws and they didn’t follow due process.”

The school’s enrollment came in 38 students under projections, leading to a budget cut of nearly $200,000. On Sept. 19, the school administration held a meeting of George Washington’s Collaborative School Committee (CSC), a group of students, parents and staff that guides school budgeting and staffing decisions. At the meeting, committee members and the administration made the decision to lay off three teachers, all of whom teach Advanced Placement courses at the school.

However, the meeting was announced the day before and only seven members attended, two less than a quorum. No parent or student representatives were present.

In a letter to the school community, the principal, Micheal Johnson, said the meeting was allowed under the CSC guidelines for “urgent business.”

The union disagrees, saying no such provision exists in the bylaws.

“We’d like to start over the process and do it according to the law,” said Singer.

Singer also says that minutes from the meeting have been withheld.

An open records request by the union for minutes from the meeting is currently in process.

Up to 347 students could see their academic schedules altered due to the layoffs, said Stephen Arichea, a faculty representative on the CSC.

Singer and others would prefer to see administrator positions cut, rather than teachers.

“There’s strong evidence that teachers have a big impact on kids,” Singer said. The same, he said, is not true of administrators.

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