Harwood Union and the Washington West Supervisory Union have filed a motion to vacate the binding arbitration decision on a Harwood paraeducator.
The motion to vacate the October 19 binding arbitration between the school district and Harwood paraeducator Denise Fuoco was filed in Vermont Superior Court.
The binding arbitration between the Harwood Education Association and WWSU found that paraeducator Denise Fuoco was unjustly terminated and should be reinstated and made whole.
Fuoco was dismissed from her paraeducator job at Harwood Union in mid-October 2010. Fuoco had been working as a paraeducator in the Washington West Supervisory Union for more than 11 years. She worked from 1999 to 2008 at the Moretown Elementary School and then at the Harwood Union Middle School from 2008 to 2010 when she was terminated.
Fuoco was terminated because she did not have credentials currently required of paraeducators working at schools receiving federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) funds. The motion to vacate the decision argues that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by ordering Fuoco to be rehired because the school must comply with NCLB regulations that require paraeducators to have a Highly Qualified Professional (HQP) designation.
The school district, through its attorney Pietro Lynn, argued that requiring Fuoco to be reinstated puts the entire school at risk of losing Title 1 funding for paraeducators. The motion to vacate also asks that arbitration condition which called for Fuoco to be made whole (her lost wages, benefits and other costs associated with losing her job) be set aside. The motion to vacate notes that the court may vacate an arbitration award that requires plaintiffs to violate federal law.
The binding arbitration found that Fuoco should have been given a reasonable period of time to become HQP (six months) and that accommodations for her dyslexia should have been provided.
“We believe that the arbitrator got it right, and we really wonder what the real reason for this additional cost to taxpayers is. Obviously we will review and respond once the appeal is served upon us,” said VT-NEA spokesperson Darren Allen.
“The arbitrator got it right. He was thorough and we hope that the Superior Court agrees and denies their motion so that Denise can be back at work where the community wants her to be and so the costs associated with this can cease,” he added.
A request to review WWSU legal bills related to the Fuoco arbitration was made by The Valley Reporter. Superintendent Brigid Scheffert said the bills would be made available but all names would be redacted to protect the privacy of personnel. A request to review the redacted bills was made on Monday, November 28. A response directed The Valley Reporter to make the request of Michelle Baker at WWSU. No response was received by press time.
According to a newsletter from Scheffert to local school boards, written in September, she is currently involved in six labor relations cases.
"In the area of labor relations, I presently have six cases. I just completed an arbitration on August 31, two are expected to move into long-term disability, one will move to arbitration, one is brand new and one will be litigated in court,” Scheffert wrote.