What We Do
The attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale represent public sector employers on education law matters in Connecticut. Our attorneys have extensive experience in representing boards of education in every aspect of education law by providing services in the following areas:
- Teacher non-renewal/termination & certification issues
- Student disciplinary matters and expulsion hearings
- School accommodation matters and representation in OCR complaint resolution and litigation
- Special education issues and litigation (including development/review of Individual Education Plans, attendance at Planning and Placement Team Meetings and presentation at due process hearings, and defense of claims under the Individuals and Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973)
- Collective bargaining with certified and non-certified staff, including binding interest arbitration
- Transportation and residency hearings
- Freedom of Information Act issues
- Preparing and reviewing school policies/student handbooks
- Compliance with Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) issues
- Tuition agreements with other public schools and contracts with out-of-district special education facilities
- Budget and finance issues regarding conflicting rights of the Board of Education versus the municipality
- Grievance and prohibited practice representation before the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration and the State Board of Labor Relations
Our Approach to Education Law Issues
As a law firm dedicated to protecting public-sector employers, representing boards of education often involves serving as chief spokesperson in collective bargaining negotiations. Prior to negotiations, we customarily engage in a comprehensive review of the collective bargaining agreement and suggest areas for improvement. Unlike some other firms, we do not view contract negotiations as a “winner take all” event, but rather believe contract negotiations are successful when an agreement is reached expeditiously and through mutual agreement with the least disruptive impact on the employees, the schools or the board of education. Because our aim is to add value to our board of education clients’ relationships with their employees, we believe that a “scorched-earth” strategy has no place in the area of labor relations. Labor disputes are different than other legal issues and, therefore, need to be handled carefully to ensure that the relationship between the board of education and the union is not damaged. That relationship must endure long after the negotiation is over. To that end, we have successfully assisted our clients in reaching a negotiated settlement in over 90% of the negotiations in which we have been involved.
However, if a negotiated agreement is not attainable, we have extensive experience in the impasse resolution mechanism known as interest arbitration. Through this process, we have obtained wage and step freezes along with reasonable wage increases in subsequent years, health insurance plan design changes, full replacement of alternative health insurance plan designs, increased employee cost shares, increases in teacher/student contact time, limitations on pensions and benefits after retirement and contract language that has assisted management in the administration of the agreement. These outcomes have resulted in significant financial savings for our clients and will greatly assist them in meeting the challenges presented by on-going financial challenges.
We bring the same approach to all other areas of our education law representation of boards of education. Resolution of matters of conflict short of litigation we feel provides the most efficient, cost effective and politically expedient way of doing business for Connecticut public entities. Nonetheless, if litigation is necessary, we have the experience and tenacity to achieve the most favorable results possible for our board of education clients.