Court Clarifies When SERB has Exclusive Jurisdiction

Court Clarifies When SERB has Exclusive Jurisdiction

Tipp City Edn. Assn. v. Tipp City Exempted Village School Dist. Bd. of Edn., 2023-Ohio-4000

 After a district issued an unpaid suspension to a teacher following several parental complaints, the Tipp City Education Association (TCEA) filed a grievance alleging that the district violated the collective bargaining agreement. The TCEA alleged that the district violated the agreement when it failed to encourage the parents to first discuss their complaints with the teacher, disciplining the teacher without good and just cause, and then failing to discipline in a progressive manner. The district and the TCEA proceeded through the grievance process, however they were unable to resolve the issue. Unlike the typical collective bargaining agreement that concludes the grievance process with binding arbitration, the agreement in this case provided that a grievant “may seek resolution through legal options.” As a result, the TCEA filed their complaint in the trial court. The school district argued that the complaint was improper because the court lacked jurisdiction, and that these claims fall exclusively under SERB’s jurisdiction.

 The 2nd Appellate District noted that there are two general areas in which SERB has exclusive jurisdiction to resolve unfair labor practice charges: 1. Where the parties file charges with SERB alleging an unfair labor practice; and 2. Where a complaint brought before the common pleas court alleges conduct that constitutes an unfair labor practice. Otherwise, under the Ohio Revised Code Section 4117.09(b)(1) a party may bring a suit for violation of a CBA in the court of common pleas. The 2nd District specifically noted that “nowhere in the Revised Code does the general assembly assign SERB exclusive jurisdiction over all issues touching on that chapter’s provisions.” Moreover, the Supreme Court of Ohio has expressly acknowledged that a plaintiff may bring a claim in common pleas court when that claim exists independently of the revised code, even if the claim may touch on the collective bargaining relationship.

 The court concluded by stating that in determining whether SERB has exclusive jurisdiction over a claim, the test is whether the claim is arising from or depends on the collective bargaining rights created by RC 4117, rather than the collective bargaining agreement.

 What does this mean for your district? If a party advances claims to a common pleas court and that claim arises from or depends on CBA rights created by the Revised Code, SERB has exclusive, original jurisdiction. However, if the party advances claims that are independent of the Revised Code and your collective bargaining agreement does not mandate binding arbitration, the case may proceed in common pleas court.

Read it Here! Science of Reading Professional Development Requirements Published

Read it Here! Science of Reading Professional Development Requirements Published



 In late March, the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce published guidance for districts on how to fulfill the staff training requirement for the new literacy improvement provision of HB 33.  The guidance may be accessed here. That provision mandates that teachers and administrators must complete professional development in the science of reading by June 30, 2025. This new guidance lays out how the training requirements can be met by staff through identifying the training topics, vendors, resources, and details for these select professional development opportunities. The training is available in online modules in the Department’s Learning Management System in addition to face-to face meetings with trained facilitators.

The guidance notes that teachers and administrators who completed similar training, notably the professional development that supports the requirements of Ohio’s Dyslexia Support laws, may also satisfy the HB 33 requirements. A training comparison chart is included in the guidance document.

Finally, the guidance provides some instruction concerning the stipend due to teachers for completing this professional development. Stipend amounts vary from $1,200 for all K-5 teachers, 6-12 English language arts teachers, and all intervention specialists, English learner teachers, reading specialists, or instructional coaches for grades K-12, to $400 for 6-12 teachers of subjects other than ELA.  Districts must first pay teachers the applicable stipend and then seek reimbursement from the Department.   HB 33 highlights that teachers shall complete the course “at a time that minimizes disruption to normal instructional hours. “

What this Means for Schools: Now that the guidance and course identification information is available, districts can commence planning to these required professional development opportunities.  Districts are cautioned to review their collective bargaining agreements and consult legal counsel to determine the appropriateness of using pre-arranged professional development days for this coursework in light of the stipend requirement.





































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Special Education Update: Recent Case Highlights the Importance of Paying Attention to Academics

Special Education Update: Recent Case Highlights the Importance of Paying Attention to Academics

Ohio’s Office for Exceptional Children (“OEC”) found that a district did not meet its child find obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) when it neglected to evaluate a student receiving poor grades and displaying difficulties paying attention. In Shelby City Schools, 124 LRP 2694 (2024), the parent of a student emailed a district indicating that their student was struggling with test scores and that they wanted an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) evaluation. The district failed to respond to the email and never conducted the IEP.

As the year progressed, the student’s grade reports indicated that they were struggling significantly in the 2023-2024 school year when compared to the 2022-2023 school year. In its finding, the OEC noted that the student’s grades showed a significant decline in performance to which the district “had knowledge of the Student’s academic struggles.” Additionally, the OEC found that even though some interventions were in place, it was clear that the interventions were not working, and the student continued to make no progress. Therefore, because of the failure to implement interventions to help the student make progress and to conduct an evaluation when the parent requested, the OEC found that the district violated the IDEA’s child find requirement.

What does this mean for your district? As the school year comes to a close and summer is right around the corner, be sure to watch for students’ grades and look for students whose grades or test scores may be declining. As the OEC noted in this case, the fact that the student’s grades were gradually worsening and they were having an increasingly difficult time paying attention should have caused the Ohio district to take notice and evaluate the student. These possible red flags, which may be highlighted in end-of-the-year grade reports, could be a flag to districts that a child might be IDEA-eligible.

Career Tech Corner: CTC Construction Program Builds Interest in Construction Delivery Methods

Career Tech Corner: CTC Construction Program Builds Interest in Construction Delivery Methods

The last Biennium Budget Bill included grants for the expansion of career technical opportunities. Last fall, the Governor’s office announced that of the 59 applicants for the Career Technical Construction Program, 35 were awarded almost $200 million. This funding will be used to build and expand classrooms and training centers at JVSDs, compacts, and comprehensives across Ohio in various programs like engineering, manufacturing, health sciences, construction, and more.

There are various construction delivery methods available to recipients of these funds who choose to use the for construction projects. The main three delivery methods utilized by school districts are summarized below.

1. Design-Bid-Build (“DBB”). This is the more traditional method of construction delivery. With this method, the owner hires an architect to develop the plans, specifications and estimates of cost. This requires a qualifications-based selection process. The architect then assists the owner with bidding the various bid packages for the contract either through a single general contract or multiple contractors. This method is typically used for smaller projects such as minor renovations, pre-fabricated buildings, athletic facility upgrades, etc., but can be utilized for larger projects as well. The Owner would contract with the architect and each prime contractor coming onto the project.

2. Design-Build (“DB”). This is often confused with DBB even though it is an entirely different delivery method. Through this method, the architect is responsible for both the design and the construction of the project. The owner has a single contract with the design-build firm. The design-build firm is selected according to a two-stage selection process that first considers qualifications then technical and price components for the delivery of the project. Prior to selecting a design-build firm, the Owner must hire a criteria architect to develop the design criteria for the project. The criteria architect is hired using a qualifications-based selection process in the same manner as hiring an architect or engineer for professional design services. Design-build is considered a faster delivery method, however, this is because there is not a lot of owner input on the actual design itself, only the criteria for the design, i.e., what components and functions the finished build must have. This method is good for projects such as an additional wing of traditional classrooms that do not have unique design components.

3. Construction Manager at-Risk (“CMR”). This is currently the most popular delivery method for new school construction, major renovations and additions projects, and projects where the owner wants to have a lot of input on the design and functional components of the build. With CMR, the owner hires an architect for the necessary professional design services. The Owner goes through a two-stage selection process first considering qualifications, then technical and pricing proposals. The Owner combines the scores across both stages and awards a contract to the winner. The CMR serves as both the construction manager and the builder. The Owner has a single contract with the CMR and the CMR is responsible for bringing in all materials, labor, and equipment to the Project.

Districts undertaking large or complex projects may consider hiring an owner’s representative. An owner’s representative is a professional agent who advises the owner and supervises the project to make sure it stays on track. While it is true that the architect and contractor will have contractual obligations to the owner, they are not “in their corner” so to speak and may end up in an adversarial position if a dispute about the work arises. The owner’s rep in turn is the agent of the owner and their focus is on asserting the owner’s interests on the project. The Ennis Britton Consulting Group (“EBCG”) provides owner’s representative services. Barb and Steve Shergalis of EBCG are former architects very experienced in public school construction projects.

Each of these delivery methods has their own unique requirements for properly soliciting the contracts to get the Project off the ground. It is therefore important to make sure that you are taking all the proper steps to ensure you have a valid contract in place that does not expose the Board of Education to unnecessary liability risks. Please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Ennis Britton Construction Practice Group with questions about the right delivery method for your project.

































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































On the Call: Predetermination

Sidestepping parental input before the IEP meeting can have you stepping into a big rain puddle of trouble. Jeremy and Erin discuss the legalities and implications of predetermination, including a recent case from Maryland where the district’s case was bolstered by the documented and constant discussion that items on the IEP were only a draft and could be changed at the meeting. They share several practical tips to help foster collaboration and ensure meaningful parental participation, which in turn, will have your team blooming like May flowers.

You can also listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. Look for new episodes on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.

Meet us in Savannah? Ennis Britton’s Jeremy Neff and Pam Leist will be speaking at the LRP National Institute in Savannah, Georgia from May 5th through 8th. This is their third year running at the conference! Pam’s session will navigate confidentiality and Jeremy plans to share insights on successfully transitioning from IDEA services. Learn more at Hope to see you there!