Sunday, August 31, 2008

Current Conditions

Just a quick note today - last Wednesday, the negotiating teams of the SEA and the school board met to discuss contract terms. They met at 9 o'clock that morning, and continued long after the lunch hour.

The Board negotiating team initiated this meeting, and NO ATTORNEYS were present for either side. Still at this meeting, the SEA refused to move from their original position. Because of this, the Board negotiating team had no other course but to offer the SEA team our final offer.

We had hoped that their team would take our offer to their membership; however, we learned from media reports the following day that the SEA negotiating team had refused to share our offer with its members, deeming it "unworthy of a vote."

I confess that I don't understand collective bargaining very well. So, I don't understand why the SEA negotiating team wouldn't just take the offer to their members to allow them to decide for themselves whether or not it was an acceptable offer. Instead, these few people decided between them (and their OEA union rep) that their members would not be allowed to have a vote on the matter.

I don't get it. . .

Since that time, I have had friends and family within the district ask what will happen should the SEA decide to strike. First of all, please know that SCHOOL WILL REMAIN OPEN !! Our kids' education is our top priority, so we have authorized Superintendent Paulette Baz to enter into a contract with Huffmaster Associates in the event of a strike. This company will provide supplemental teaching staff for all grade and subject levels to keep our children's education moving forward.

Please understand that any person who wishes to teach or be otherwise involved in a public school - even volunteers - must pass the same FBI fingerprinting and background checks as our regular teaching staff. In addition, substitute teachers are required by law to have the same educational background and license or certification as a regular teacher. So all members of the Huffmaster Associates staff are fully qualified teachers, and will greatly help to minimize any disruption for our children in the classroom or sports programs.

We Will Have School !

I am aware that in at least one of our school buildings, some of the teachers have begun spreading nonsense that the supplemental staffing will include "ex-cons", "criminals", etc. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I am at a loss as to why these people who claim to care about our kids would say such things. Unbelievable! I ask you as parents to report those teachers to us by name who say these and similar things, so that we may allay your fears, and address the situation directly with them.

Likewise, please feel free to contact the building principal or Superintendent Baz if you have questions about what is happening in the building where your kids attend. For example, if you are wondering what is going on with honors English at the Middle School, then get on the phone and call Mr. Ohlemacher at 419-826-4016 (or Mrs. Baz at 419-826-7085). If you have a question about scheduling or classes at the high school level, call Mr. Gfell at 419-826-3045. Our principal at Park Elementary is Mrs. Myers who may be reached at 419-826-3766, and Crestwood questions may be asked of Mrs. Lutz at 419-826-8991. These administrators are in the business of caring for and educating our children, and they welcome your questions and ideas. It is so much better to just call and ASK, instead of fretting and wondering about something. So please pick up the phone and get answers!

Several people have asked me to explain the difference between a standard health insurance plan and a self-funded plan, which is what we have at Swanton. Rather than take up space here, I suggest you "google" the concepts as follows:
In your search box, type in this phrase exactly as you see it here: "self-funded" insurance
Be sure to place quotation marks around the first word. Press Enter, and you'll get several pages of websites that give explanations of how these two types of insurance plans work. When I worked at The Andersons in the '70's, we had a standard Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan, but we moved into a self-funded plan and that is what they have today. Having worked over 20 years there as Benefits Administrator, I am very familiar with both types of contracts. There are cost savings and benefit flexibilities in a self-funded plan that do not exist in the standard format - plus, self-funded plans are subject to ERISA regulations.

As tensions mount during this time, please do all you can to calm your children, especially the little ones. They are caught in the cross-fire of something far beyond their control, and we all need to exercise patience and restraint for their sakes.

All of us - parents, teachers, and administration - want to get back to the business of educating our kids. Please pray for a sensible and speedy resolution to our contract negotiations.

1 comment:

Amy Seel said...

"For example, if you are wondering what is going on with honors English at the Middle School, then get on the phone and call Mr. Ohlemacher at 419-826-4016"

Every person that I have asked about the honors classes has indicated that the board made the cuts. Today I did speak with Mr. Olemacher and he indicated he would have to look into the matter.

Amy Seel