Citizen Staff Writer
LAW AND ORDER REPORT
A dispute over whether the Tucson Unified School District unfairly denied merit pay to Dodge Magnet Middle School teachers may be headed for a jury trial.
Each side last month asked Pima County Superior Court John E. Davis for summary judgments in its favor.
The judge denied both requests Thursday, saying neither side had proved its case.
Proposition 301, an initiative passed in 2000 that requires school districts to adopt a performance-based pay plan for teachers, lies at the center of the case. The merit pay is funded by a 0.6 percent sales tax.
Dodge teachers sued the district, saying the school’s tough academic standards counted against them when they failed to achieve three goals for progress in the 2006-2007 school year. For instance, the goal to improve reading was not met because the software ordered was not compatible with the school’s computers.
Other schools with vague goals, or goals altered after the start of the school year, received merit pay, the teachers said.
TUSD said Dodge teachers could have done the same.
Davis said Thursday in his ruling that issues of fact couldn’t be resolved by summary judgment on the teachers’ claim for breach of contract.
A three-day trial is set to begin March 31.
The teachers’ attorney, Karl E. MacOmber, said his clients are disappointed by Davis’ ruling, but declined to comment further.
“We wish the judge would have seen what we saw and dismissed the plaintiffs’ case,” said Robert S. Ross Jr. of TUSD’s Legal Department.
“At this point, we’ll put it in the hands of a jury at the trial in March,” Ross said.