– Valley Local Schools and Tri - Valley Education
the matter of Voluntary Arbitration
Tri - Valley Education Association
Tri – Valley Local Schools
[Grievance filed by Mark W. Prince, April 17, 2002]
An arbitration hearing was conducted September 10, 2002 at the offices of the Tri – Valley Board of Education, Dresden, Ohio. The issue at hand was a matter of contract interpretation. The Board of Education was represented by Gregory Scott, attorney. The grievant, Mark W. Prince, was represented by CeCile Steele, OEA Labor Relations Consultant.
At the hearing the parties submitted the following joint exhibits:
1. The Collective Bargaining Agreement in effect.
2. The Grievance Trail.
The Union submitted the following documentary evidence:
1. Letter addressed to the Board of Education and various members
2. The Board Agenda from 4/ 10 / 02
3a. Memo to Mr. Hightower 5 / 31 / 02
3b. Memo to Mr. Prince 6 / 6/ 02
3. Times Recorder Article 7 / 31 / 02 (received over the objection of the Board)
The Board’s Exhibits included:
1. A memo dated 5 / 2 / 02
2. The Level 3 Appeal dated 4 / 30 / 02
Both parties were given full opportunity to examine and cross examine witnesses, pose arguments and present their respective cases. All materials were reviewed and considered by the arbitrator in reaching this decision. Both sides ably and professionally represented their clients and respective points of view.
In their post hearing brief the Union phrases the issue before the Arbitrator in the following manner:
“Was the contract between the Tri – Valley Education Association and the Tri – Valley Board of Education violated when complaint letters were delivered directly to Board members, and did that action result in the failure to hire Mark Prince as volleyball coach? If so, what shall the remedy be?”
The remedy requested by the union “is for Mr. Prince to be hired as head volleyball coach for the 2003-2004 season, to be compensated his regular head volleyball coaching wage for the 2002-2003 season, and any other relief deemed appropriate.”
While management did not specifically address the issue to be answered, both parties did stipulate that the matter was properly before the Arbitrator for determination.
RELEVANT COLLECTIVE BARGAINING SECTIONS:
21 COMPLAINTS AGAINST PERSONNEL
The Administration may commence an investigation as to the
authenticity of any information related to a complaint.
No complaint will be placed in any personnel file of a
certified member unless:
The administration notifies the bargaining unit member of the
Upon the bargaining unit member’s request, a conference was
held (including the complainant), if he or she is agreeable to
participate), the certified staff member, and the principal or
immediate supervisor of the certified staff member.
The findings and resolution, if any, of the aforementioned
conference have been reduced to writing by the principal or the
immediate supervisor and initiated by the certified staff member.
Such initialing shall not be construed as agreeing with the
document, but only that the certified staff member received a copy
of the document. Refusal
to initial findings and resolution will be noted and the materials
filed per (d.) below.
The certified staff member shall be given a copy of the
conference memo and be given an opportunity to write a rebuttal to
such record for placement in the personnel file.
Such rebuttal must be submitted within ten (10) days from the
date the staff member initials in the conference memo.
Anonymous complaints will not be made a part of the permanent
file unless investigation of the complaint substantiates and
provides evidence that a valid complaint exists.
Complaints will be advanced through the administration with
attempts of resolution at the lowest possible level.
No complaint regarding a bargaining unit member will be the
subject of Board action unless the procedure outlined above has been
followed. Should the complaint not be resolved at the conclusion of the
administrative complaint procedure and the complainant desires Board
consideration of the complaint, then the following procedure shall
Complainant shall notify the Superintendent in writing of
his/her request for Board consideration of the complaint at the next
regular Board meeting.
Notice of the Board consideration of the complaint will be
given to the bargaining unit member involved personally or by means
of a registered/certified mailing at least three (3) days prior to
the Board meeting. Notice will be mailed to the last registered address of the
bargaining unit member filed with the Board.
The complaint shall be heard by the Board in executive
session. The bargaining unit member will be allowed to remain in the
executive session called for purposes of Board consideration of the
complaint, in order to hear the complainant and respond, and will be
allowed to have one (1) representative accompany him/her to the
Resolution by Board action will become a part of the
bargaining unit member’s file, and the bargaining unit member
shall receive a copy of the action.
The bargaining unit member may attach an opinion or statement
to the filed complaint within then (10) days of the bargaining unit
member’s receipt of the Board action.
3 GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE
A grievance is a complaint involving the alleged violation,
misinterpretation of or misapplication of:
written agreement entered into between the Board of Education and
the recognized employee organization, setting forth the
understanding of the parties upon those matters negotiated and to
which are agreed.
The arbitrator shall not have the authority to add to,
subtract from, modify, change or alter any of the provisions of this
negotiated Agreement, nor add to, detract from or modify the
language therein in arriving at a determination of any issues
Wesley Prince is an English teacher employed by the Tri – Valley
Board of Education. He has been employed at the High School for eight years. He
has been Head Volleyball coach for ten years and a Junior Varsity
Coach a year prior to that time.
On April 10, 2002 the
administration of Tri Valley submitted a list of persons to be
re-hired as coaches for the 2002 – 2003 school year.
Mr. Prince was on that list of
recommendations from the administration, to continue as head
The Board of Education met at 7:30 p.m.
Just prior to that meeting the District Treasurer found a
number of letters in his office from parents, students and former
students. The letters,
which were addressed to the Board of Education and to individual
board members, contains complaints about Mr. Prince in his coaching
role. The treasurer
copied the letters and distributed them to the Board members.
The Board went into executive
session to discuss personnel matters. Once they had read the letters of complaint, they invited Mr.
Prince and an Association Representative into the executive session.
The Board presented Mr. Prince with copies of the letters and
invited him to respond. Mr.
Prince, who had not had an opportunity to review and consider the
complaints, did not respond to them at that time.
The Board ordered Mr. Prince’s
name removed from the list and took no action on filling the Head
Volleyball Coach position at the April 10 meeting.
Apparently the Board instructed the
administration to conduct an investigation into the matter.
One week later, on April 17, Mr.
Prince filed a grievance. He
stated that he did so because the administration had apparently not
commenced an investigation and based upon advice that he needed to
file the grievance in order to preserve his contractual timeline for
filing a grievance.
The rememdy stated in the grievance
was denied by the Interim Superintendent but the High School
Principal was instructed to conduct an investigation.
Mr. Pottmeyer, the principal, did
conduct an investigation and attempted to resolve the matter by
meeting with complainants and Coach Prince.
Following the investigation the Athletic Director, the High
School Principal and Mr. Prince entered into an agreement wherein
Mr. Prince would address certain communications and coaching issues,
and the administration again advanced the name of Mr. Prince as Head
The Board declined to appoint Mr.
Prince to the coaching position.
Sometime in the summer the Board
hired another staff person as Head Volleyball Coach.
That decision is subject to another grievance which is not
under consideration in this arbitration.
the union the matter is clear.
If the letters of complaint had been given to the
administration and an internal investigation had been conducted, Mr.
Prince would almost certainly have been given the position of Head
Volleyball Coach again.
That is the way Article 21
envisioned dealing with complaints.
The direct viewing of the letters by the Board “poisoned
the well” sufficiently to assure the Board did not vote to give
the position to Mr. Prince.
The union offers two arguments to
bolster their position.
If “Mr. Pottmeyer had received the complaint letters on
April 10, 2002, the Board would have acted that evening on the
routine matter of approving coaching contracts.
The Board would likely never have become aware of any
problems if Mr. Pottmeyer had been allowed to handle the complaints
in the manner dictated by the contract,”
“Second, the Board did act on the recommendation to
hire Mark Prince by tabling the motion to do so.
The contract is clear that no “complaint involving a
bargaining unit member will be the subject of Board action” unless
the complaint procedure has been followed.”
is the Union’s position that the only way to remedy this matter is
to appoint Mr. Prince coach in the next school year and compensate
him for the salary he would have earned during 2002- 2003.
The Board argues that the Union is
asking the arbitrator to limit communications between the Board of
Education and the public the Board is elected to represent.
The Board asserts that while the Labor Contract sets up an
internal procedure for handling complaints, there is no bar from the
Board hearing citizen complaints.
The Board argues that to attempt to
limit the public in that way would violate the First Amendment of
the United States Constitution.
The Board notes that the
investigative procedure of Article 21 was followed completely and
correctly once Principal Pottmeyer commenced the investigation.
Therefore if there is any merit to the grievance filed April 17, it
is now moot.
Finally, the Board reminds the
arbitrator not to journey into that forbidden and dangerous field of
land mines, known as “exceeding the arbitrator’s authority.”
a case comes along that an arbitrator would like to decide on the
basis of the “smell” test.
Those are cases where something just does not smell right.
At first blush this is such a case.
Arbitrators are not permited to
administer this brand of industrial justice and must, instead,
attempt to read and apply the words and meaning of the Collective
Mr. Prince appears to be an
extremely successful coach both in winning matches and in caring
about the development of his players.
His efforts and successes have brought positive recognition
to himself and to the school.
The administration appears to have
had confidence in him based upon their recommendations to continue
him in the coaching position.
The evidence would indicate that
one or more parents became upset with Mr. Prince and decided to wage
a campaign against him in his role as coach. Certainly this is not an uncommon occurrence for anyone who
holds the position of coach.
The union is correct in stating
that if the letters of complaint had not reached the members of the
Board of Education on the night of April 10, Mr. Prince would likely
have been re-appointed as coach as a routine order of business.
But they did. Some
parents, who apparently did not even attend the meeting of the Board
of Education, delivered letters to them.
All parties agree that those parents were not bound by the
contents of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The question then becomes “did
the Board of one or more of its agents violate the Agreement by
their handling of the letters?”
The union seems to believe that the treasurer should
have declined to deliver the letters to the Board which were
addressed to them. Instead
he should have delivered them to someone else or to hold them until
after the Board acted on coaching contracts.
I fail to reach that conclusion after reading Article 21.
It clearly anticipates complaints received by the
administration being investigated before the Board engages in any
Certainly no one would argue that a
parent or student would be prevented from hand delivering a
complaint letter to a Board member.
Or that the parent or student could not have placed a phone
call to a Board member. Likewise,
a parent could have spoken during the public participation part of
the Board meeting. In
any of these cases the Board could have decided to table action on
the Head Volleyball Coach position.
I doubt seriously that the board
would approve of the treasurer making a unilateral decision to
withhold or divert their mail from them regarding a matter that was
on the pending agenda.
The public has an absolute right to
communicate with their elected representatives and I cannot see how
any member of the administration or the treasurer could have
interfered with that process.
Let us examine, then, the actions
the Board took. They
received the letters. The
letters stated concerns. They
called Mr. Prince into the executive session, with an association
representative and gave him copies of the letters.
Mr. Prince, rightfully (in my view), declined to attempt to
answer allegations he had only slightly perused.
The Board decided to postpone
consideration of the matter.
The union would argue that the
inaction of the Board to approve Mr. Prince for the volleyball
position was a violation of the agreement.
This arbitrator fails to see how.
There is nothing in the Collective Bargaining Agreement which
guarantees that a bargaining unit member must be appointed to a
specific supplemental position and certainly no time lines in which
they are required to act. The
volleyball season was not immediately pending.
The Board chose to delay action and that was their
The administration did not
immediately commence an investigation.
One would think if there was serious concern about the
statements which could constitute sexual harassment that an
investigation would start immediately.
The conclusion drawn by this arbitrator is that the
administration was not very concerned about this matter.
Mr. Prince filed a grievance.
While the grievance was denied, the interim superintendent
did direct the High School Principal to commence the investigation.
He did so and all parties agreed that it was conducted
properly (union brief, page 4).
Two of the complainants showed for
a face to face meeting. After
that meeting the High School Principal formulated a plan of action
and Mr. Prince agreed to the elements of that plan.
Following the investigation and the
execution of this document, Mr. Prince was again recommended as head
coach, by the administration. The Board failed to act on that recommendation.
While this arbitrator may not agree
with the action (or inaction) of the Board of Education, they
certainly were within their rights to make the decision they did.
Nothing in the Collective Bargaining Agreement requires them
to do otherwise.
In a Pike – Delta – York case
in 2001 Arbitrator Colman Lalka faced a similar situation wherein
the Superintendent recommended an employee for the girls Head
Basketball Coach position. The Board refused to act on the
recommendation and later went on to hire a non teacher to the
Arbitrator held that the Board was within its rights to do so. 
Shortly thereafter the Tri-Valley
Board appointed a new
Superintendent and a new Head Volleyball Coach was selected soon
appointment is the subject of another grievance and is not a matter
to be considered by this arbitrator.
Article 21 is a provision that
establishes a procedure which attempts to provide fairness for
employees who have complaints asserted against them.
Section number 1 provides that no complaints will be placed
in the personnel file of the employee unless certain conditions are
met. In fact, Counsel for the Board stated that the letters have
never been placed in Mr. Prince’s Personnel file (transcript page
Section 2 states that “No
complaint regarding a bargaining unit member will be the subject of
Board action unless the procedure outlined above has been
“procedures outlined above” were followed.
Even if they were not, Article 21 would not apply.
Coaches have no vested right to the positions they have
previously held. The
Board of Education makes an annual decision regarding who will
occupy those positions.
In this unfortunate case a few
citizens lobbied their elected leaders.
They apparently were successful in their efforts.
The Board chose not to follow the recommendations of their
Administrators and did not re-hire Mr. Prince to the position of
Head Volleyball Coach. The
record would indicate that this is an unfortunate loss to the
district but one that is within the rights of the Board of Education
For the reasons herein indicated,
and based upon the evidence, testimony and arguments of the parties,
I must deny the grievance.
The grievance is denied.
Issued this 20th day of November, 2002 at
 Pike-Delta-York Local School District vs. Education Assn., 116 LA 432, 9/26/2001, Lalka, Colman R.