School board denies latest union charges

BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island Regional School System board has denied the most recent allegations of engaging in “prohibited practices” filed with the Maine Labor Relations Board (MLRB) by the MDI Education Association, the local teachers union, in connection with negotiations for a new teachers’ contract. 

The union complaint, filed Nov. 9, accused school officials of failing to bargain in good faith, undermining the union’s ability to communicate with and organize its members and interfering with the NLRB’s fact-finding process. 

One of the union’s complaints involved a disagreement over who was the legitimate president of the teachers association at Conners Emerson School. 

The union alleged that the schools’ attorney, Tom Trenholm, in a phone conversation with the union’s attorney, Jeffrey Neil Young, defamed Maine Education Association UniServ Director Sean Brailey, “claiming he was a rogue representative and that the [teachers association] President at Conners Emerson did not support him, the filing of any prohibited practice complaints, or other actions he had taken for the Association.” 

It is the MEA’s Brailey who has filed the complaints against the MDI school board on behalf of the local teachers association. 

“Trenholm made statements apparently intended to undermine Brailey’s credibility and trust with the Employee representative on the Fact-Finding Panel,” the teachers association’s complaint alleged. 

In a response filed with the NLRB on Monday on behalf of the school board, Trenholm denied that allegation.  

The union’s complaint also cited the resignation this fall of three school board members: board chair and lead contract negotiator Kristi Losquadro, Todd Graham and Ingrid Kachmar. Losquadro, in announcing her resignation, accused representatives of the teachers union of making “malicious” accusations against her and fellow board members. 

Graham cited what he called “the mischaracterization and the mistrust of the school board” by representatives of the teachers union. 

Kachmar claimed that the teachers’ negotiators “are being told how to act and what to say” by officials of the Maine Education Association. 

The teachers association said in its complaint, “The Losquadro, Kachmar, and Graham resignation letters demonstrate an organized failure to bargain in good faith…and are organized retaliatory acts targeted at the Association for exercising its statutory rights to file Prohibited Practice Complaints.” 

The school board denied that charge in its response filed Monday. 

Along with formally responding to the union’s allegations, the school board filed a counterclaim against the union. That counterclaim stated that a three-person fact finding panel that included a neutral party, a representative of the teachers union and a representative of the school board had issued a unanimous report on the facts at issue, which was sent to the union and the school board of Nov. 4. 

The two parties met for a negotiating session on Nov. 9. According to the school board’s counterclaim, “Instead of making a meaningful proposal at that meeting… or at least reading the fact-finding report in advance of the November 9th meeting, the (union) had Mr. Brailey email a prohibited practice complaint to the Superintendent of Schools.” 

The school board’s counterclaim appears to refer to a portion of the union’s complaint that quoted two members of the union as opposing the union’s filing of prohibited practice complaints. 

The counterclaim asserts that many of the allegations in the union’s complaint are “demonstrably untrue or rooted in likely truthful allegations showing the homegrown objections to Mr. Brailey’s personal strategy for the parties’ negotiations, which he attempts to color as a grand scheme by the (school board) to undermine his control of the trajectory of the parties’…negotiations.” 

The school board’s counterclaim continues: “The Association leadership continues to encourage and allow Mr. Brailey to spread misinformation and disinformation on the Association’s Facebook page and cherry pick for publication intentionally misleading aspects of the (school board’s) otherwise confidential post-fact-finding proposal to further sew (sic) chaos and discontent into these negotiations, instead of taking any meaningful steps to signal a present intention to reach an agreement.” 

The teachers association now has until Dec. 20 to file a response to the school board’s counterclaim with the MLRB. Then MLRB Executive Director Neil Daly will decide whether either or both complaints warrant a hearing before the full Labor Relations Board. 

This is the second round of complaints and counterclaims filed this fall by the teachers union and the school board. 

Daly had already scheduled a pre-hearing conference for Dec. 14 on the association’s original prohibited practice complaint, filed in September, and the school board’s counterclaim.  

But with the filing of the new complaint and counterclaim, he told the Islander, “I have proposed to the parties to suspend the prehearing conference until I have determined whether (the new) complaint or counter-complaint present actionable claims. If (the new set of complaints) presents actionable claims, it will presumably be consolidated with (the earlier complaints) for hearing before the board.” 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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