Brighton schools union office to see changes, according to officials

BRIGHTON — Brighton Area Schools Treasurer John Conely, who raised concerns on Jan. 23 about teachers union staff using a room at the high school, said the district has taken steps to cut back on the access non-school employees enjoyed and is making other changes.

Conely said the district is taking away the school ID used by a union staff member who regularly works in the high school union office.

"She doesn't have a background check and she's working around our students," he said.

Conely said he doesn't believe the union member was a threat, but that it's more about the principle.

Superintendent Matt Outlaw, in an email, confirmed the person did not have a school ID.

"There is one BEA employee that works in this office school two times each week," he said. "This person does not have a school ID since she is not a district employee. Also, to clarify, this individual did have a background check when she first started working in the office a few years ago."

According to district officials, Brighton schools has allowed the BEA to use a room at the high school for union activities for at least 40 years. The district's contract with its teachers — like most public school district teacher contracts — states the BEA will be allowed to use school facilities at various times, although it doesn't specifically mention use of a room. Conely spoke out against the arrangement during the school board meeting, seeking changes.

Thursday, Conely said when the union employee wants to enter the school they will have to present their driver's license and get a pass like any other visitor.

Conely also said the district is changing the lock on the door to the room so school administration also has access. He said the door to the room will have to remain open during school hours like all other school rooms. He also said a phone that was in the room for union use was removed.

Outlaw said school and union technology are kept separate, and noted there will be increased access to the room.

"The technology that is in that office does not belong to the district and they are not tied into the district network," Outlaw said. "Building administration does have access to this office now, which is a change."

School board President Roger Meyers deferred comment on the issue to Outlaw. Brighton Education Association President Barry Goode, a counselor at the school, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The Michigan Education Association, with which the BEA is affiliated, did not respond Thursday, but earlier this week said the room shouldn't be an issue.

"This arrangement has worked well for both staff and administrators, as the location provides a convenient place for labor and management to sit down together and collaborate on workplace issues. This helps foster good relations between educators and administrators and promotes labor peace," Michigan Education Association spokesperson Thomas Morgan said in a statement.

Conely said he's not particularly concerned about the contract language allowing use of facilities as long as the union uses the space like any other organization would — by paying rent.

"All I'm looking for is fairness," he said. "We're not being paid rent, we're not being paid anything."

Following the Jan. 23 school board meeting, the Livingston County Republican Party issued a statement saying it supported Conely and that the existence of the union room in the school, "shows bias at the highest level of the administration."

Sophia Lada is a reporter for the Livingston Daily. Contact her at or 517-377-1065. Follow her on Twitter @sophia_lada.

This article originally appeared on Livingston Daily: Brighton Area Schools changes BEA union room deal after complaints