COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Education Association members, who serve as liaisons between Project Connect and students in Columbus City Schools who are in foster care and/or facing homelessness, are wanting the district to intervene on behalf of students.
That’s after they said the district rewrote the job descriptions of those members who serve with Project Connect. Columbus City School educators who work with Project Connect help the district’s students and their families get housing, basic necessities, enroll in school and stay in school.
According to the CEA, there was never a conversation between the district and the union about how to address any issues.
As a result, they believe this new move opens the door for the district to not only outsource their jobs even for things in the future, but they also said the shift in positions from under the CEA contract cuts Project Connect advocates from membership protections, all of which they said violates state law and the CEA bargaining agreement.
Kevin Boehm, McKinney Vento liaison for Columbus City Schools and Project Connect Team leader said they, along with the foster care liaison and the juvenile justice youth liaison, were notified five weeks ago that their positions would be reclassified from “full-time hourly positions to civil service positions and that our positions would be removed from the CEA bargaining unit.“
Boehm added that staff has already started to feel the effects as they were then told they’d receive pay cuts.
“We’re talking at least $10 an hour to $20,000 a year reduction.”
Project Connect advocate Amy Bradley is one of those taking a 30% pay cut; however, she, like Boehm, is concerned about the impact the changes will have on students.
“I find the short-term implications troubling," she said. “It would be a great fantasy to think that we could keep that level of dedication and continuity for our students who absolutely need continuity because school perhaps is the only place they’re getting it.”
Columbus City School Board President Jennifer Adair indicated the district would follow up after sharing a statement from the district.
“We treasure every student who walks through our doors, regardless of where they attend school or where they reside. We want all students to be successful and will provide them with the tools they need to advance in the classroom and in life. All of our students, including our homeless students, receive instruction from our dedicated, licensed teachers. Non-instructional support for our homeless students can be appropriately provided by District non-teaching employees. The district has created new employment classifications within the classified civil service, an Academic Youth Support Advocate, and a Student Services Program Coordinator, to provide these necessary supports to our students and families experiencing homelessness. No student will receive any lesser services than provided in the past. Change, even when challenging, is sometimes necessary. But the bottom line is that we will always keep our students as our top priority," Adair said.
The CEA has already filed one grievance and plans to file another in response.