Fired then re-hired, 2 teachers battle CMS

Fired then re-hired, 2 teachers battle CMS


by BILL MCGINTY / NewsChannel 36 Staff

Bio | Email | Follow: @billwcnc

Posted on October 20, 2011 at 4:33 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 9:15 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Connie Jerman and Arlene Trefil don’t go into the classroom for the money, yet, ironically, money is exactly what this story is about.

On May 12, the day they lost their jobs, they were given letters explaining that because of the budget situation, they would be part of the reduction in force.

“I felt like I had been punched in the gut,” Trefil said.

CMS sent both Arlene and Connie the same letter which also saying their employment will end in June 2011. (Click here to read CMS' letter to Connie)

Both women, now unemployed, filed for and received unemployment benefits on the date they were allowed to do so: July 1, 2011. In late July Connie and Arlene got another letter, this one undated and telling them the budget situation at CMS had changed and both were being called back to work for the upcoming school year.

This is where the story gets odd. 

In September, the Employment Security Commission sent letters telling both Arlene and Connie they weren’t eligible for unemployment because they were on summer break and not unemployed. North Carolina is now demanding they pay every dime of their unemployment benefits back. 

The state wants $1,497 back from Arlene and $1,644 back from Connie.

“They (CMS) even gave me instruction on how to file for unemployment,” Trefil said.

The state employment commission is citing North Carolina law, 96-13(b)(1)(b), saying that school employees, like teacher assistants, can’t collect unemployment during the summer months because they have a “reasonable assurance”  of going back to work the next school year.  But the CMS letter dated May 12 clearly said they were terminated.

Jerman has been a teacher for 26 years and says she has never applied for unemployment benefits because she knew she had a job the following year.

The Employment Security Commission is now saying that CMS told the state, Arlene and Connie were not unemployed.

Newschannel 36 has been on the phone with CMS, which says the district is trying to work through the debate. 

 “The teachers should have known they had a position for the upcoming year,” a CMS spokesperson said.

Both Arlene and Connie say the stress of the situation has caused them to worry and lose sleep.

They are currently appealing their cases and have requested in person hearings with the Employment Security Commission in November.  Newschannel 36 will be at both of them.