ACSA’s Member Assistance and Legal Support Team (MALST), as pictured in 2018. Standing from left, Joanne Godfrey, Joe Jones, Margarita Cuizon-Armelino, Gary Rutherford, John Almond and Bill Tschida. Seated from left, Sharon Dezutti, Janet Morey and Lloyd Wamhof.
Member needs vary during pandemic
May 23, 2022
The following article was submitted by ACSA Member Services.
ACSA’s Member Assistance and Legal Support Team (MALST) has just completed its 22nd year of service for members in our current format. Under the direction of Senior Director of Member Services Margarita Cuizon-Armelino, the seven members of our team — John Almond, Sharon Dezutti, Joe Jones, Janet Morey, Gary Rutherford, Bill Tschida and Lloyd Wamhof — have provided assistance to 802 members as of the end of May this year.
In “normal” years, most of our assistance dealt with navigating the education code and due process rights. The past two years, however, have been anything but normal. The ongoing pandemic has caused all administrators to have to deal with a complete change in terms of educating students, coping with state mandates, working with angry parents and community members, and working diligently to maintain some semblance of morale in the toughest of times. As a result, our team has spent many hours working with members on such topics as crisis assistance, media issues and friction among many of the stakeholders. In essence, we now live in a new world with a new definition of “normal.”
In addition to those issues cited above, our Advocates have successfully assisted members to navigate through a wide variety of problems and issues. Some of the more common issues are as follows:
  • Contract reviews.
  • Parent/community complaints.
  • Being placed on paid administrative leave.
  • Reassignment/demotion/termination.
  • CTC issues.
  • Discord with a supervisor.
  • Sexual harassment.
  • Settlement agreements.
It is important to mention that there is no cost to ACSA members for services provided by ACSA staff members, and approximately 80 percent of the requests for assistance are handled and completed by the Advocates. Members needing assistance from one of our ACSA panel attorneys can receive up to three levels of support:
  • Level 1: Two hours of attorney time at no cost to you. ACSA pays that bill.
  • Level 2: If legal assistance beyond two hours is needed, the Member Assistance Advocate may authorize up to an additional $1,000. ACSA will bear 60 percent of the authorized costs, and the member will bear 40 percent.
  • Level 3: When the Advocate believes that additional assistance is warranted, the member is required to complete an application. Following approval by the Senior Director of Member Services and notification to ACSA’s Executive Committee, ACSA will commit up to $4,000 in additional assistance. ACSA will bear 60 percent of the additional legal fees (not to exceed $4,000), and the member shall bear the balance.
In addition to working directly with individual members, Advocates from the team continue to present at various ACSA Academies and conferences. Due to health concerns, many of these presentations have been done virtually for the past two and a half years. Dealing with the pandemic has presented many challenges, but the one positive has been that it has forced all administrators, including the members of our team, to think outside the box as well as develop new skills.
In order to access the MALST Advocates, go to the ACSA website and complete a legal request form at Once this form is submitted, Joanne Godfrey, Partnership and Member Services liaison, will forward the request to one of our Advocates. A member can also call 1-800-608-2272 and ask to be transferred to the Member Assistance and Legal Support Team.
In terms of general advice or thoughts:
1) Don’t hesitate to call or complete the online legal support form. 2) If you have an immediate issue such as being asked to resign, contact us first before you agree to or sign anything. 3) This ACSA service is available to every regular member of ACSA. It’s a very personal service, and we want you to feel comfortable reaching out to our team for assistance. To that end, all matters are treated confidentially.
As we all know, “Leadership Matters” and “ACSA Membership Matters” in order to provide support for today’s educational leaders.
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