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There when you need it most — Member Assistance & Legal Support
August 9, 2021
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The ACSA Member Assistance & Legal Support Team (MALST), under the direction of Senior Director Margarita Cuizon-Armelino, provides assistance to approximately 750-800 members each year.
As we begin a new school year, we have asked Advocates John Almond, Janet Morey, Sharon Dezutti, Joe Jones, Bill Tschida, Gary Rutherford and Lloyd Wamhof to share how they can best be of assistance to you. These very experienced advocates have a proven track record and have served more than 16,500 ACSA members in the past 21 years.
How does a member access the MALST Advocates for assistance? A member can call 1-800-608-2272 and ask to be transferred to the Member Assistance & Legal Support Team or the member can go to the ACSA website and fill out the legal request form at www.acsa.org/legalsupport. Once this form is submitted, Joanne Godfrey, ACSA’s Partnership and Member Services Liaison, will forward the request to one of our team’s seven Advocates.
Is there any cost for this service? There is no cost for services provided by ACSA staff members, and approximately 80 percent of the requests for assistance are handled and completed by the advocates. If a member is in need of an attorney, there are three levels of support.
Level 1 – Two hours of attorney time at no cost to you. (ACSA pays the 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 of such costs. Level 3 – When the Member Assistance Advocate believes that additional legal assistance is warranted, he/she shall refer the matter to the ACSA Board’s Executive Committee. Following approval by the Executive Committee, ACSA will commit up to $4,000 in additional assistance. ACSA shall bear 60 percent of additional legal fees (not to exceed $4,000) and the member shall bear the balance.
The advocates on this team are very experienced and are given the authority to approve levels 1 and 2 of legal service for the ACSA member. Level 3 must be approved by the ACSA Board Executive Committee.
How many attorneys does ACSA have available to assist our members? We have eight very experienced panel attorneys geographically located throughout the state to assist our members. All of them are experienced in education law.
When a member calls for assistance, is it confidential? Absolutely, our service would not have lasted as long as it has without providing our members with confidentiality. We want our members to feel safe reaching out to us for assistance.
What are some of the typical reasons that a member reaches out for assistance? Members call for a variety of matters including: demotion, reassignment and termination, CTC issues, contract assistance, responding to a negative evaluation, settlement agreements, complaints filed against them and being placed on administrative leave while an investigation is completed. We also have members who call wanting advice about seeking a new position or making career choices.
How many contracts does your team assist members in reviewing each year? Close to 100 members a year call us for assistance with their contracts. Over the past 21 years we have assisted with nearly 1,900 contracts.
During the past 21 years, what topic do the advocates respond to the most? Between 175-250 members a year call asking questions about the March 15 Notice.
Finally, what general advice or thoughts do you have for our members?
1) Don’t hesitate to call or complete the online legal support form mentioned earlier if you have a question or concern. 2) If you have an immediate issue such as being asked to resign, call us first before you agree to or sign anything. 3) This ACSA service is for every regular member and job-alike group in ACSA. It’s a very personal service that ACSA offers and we want you to feel comfortable calling our team for assistance. As was previously stated, all matters are treated confidentially.
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