Cerritos : Schools Seek Legal Help

The ABC Unified School District has selected a Los Angeles law firm to prepare its arbitration case for a controversial staffing plan to convert an elementary school into the district's first magnet school.

The board voted 6 to 1 Monday, with board member Elizabeth Hutcheson dissenting, to hire Liebert, Cassidy & Frierson to represent the district in any arbitration hearings that might arise from from a plan to convert Niemes Elementary School in Artesia into a magnet school and open positions now held by the Niemes teachers to all teachers in the district.

Last month the board rejected a proposal supported by the teachers union to give instructors at the school first crack at the jobs.

Five teachers have filed grievances against the district on how the teachers are being selected, according to Terry McAlpine, district public information officer.

An arbitrator approved by both the teacher's union and the district will be asked to take the case but no time has been set, McAlpine said.

A selection committee consisting of parents, teachers and the magnet-school principal has interviewed potential teachers for the program, which is scheduled to open in the fall with a curriculum that will differ from other elementary schools in the district by placing a heavy emphasis on fine arts, literature, decision making and critical thinking.

There are 24 jobs slots. So far, 10 Niemes school teachers have been transferred to other schools within the district and five have been selected for the magnet school from other schools in the district, McAlpine said.

The 22,000-student district has openings for 10 new teachers, and when they are selected, McAlpine said "they will be pretty much earmarked for the Niemes program."

John Ennes, president of the ABC Federation of Teachers, has said the plan violates the contract agreement, which says that teachers cannot be moved without their consent.

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