Thursday, October 30, 2008

Secretaries Have a Fair Contract

Yesterday (Wednesday), the SSSA voted to accept the tentative contract agreement. That evening at a Special Meeting, the Board also voted to accept the agreement.

Among other things, the contract includes a 3% pay increase for each of the next two years. You may read the other items listed by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another Contract Settled

Last night, the Board negotiating team gave an offer to our secretarial and support staff that their negotiating team and union representative talked over at length. Early this morning (just after midnight, as a matter of fact), a Tentative Agreement was signed by both parties.

The Board will hold an official vote on the TA as soon as legally possible (we need to provide 48 hrs. notice to the public of any special meetings so as to be in compliance with Ohio Sunshine Law). I am told that the SSSA members will vote on the proposed contract next week.

I believe it is safe to say that this matter is settled to the mutual satisfaction of both sides.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Here Are the Documents

Quite an, ah, "interesting" paid advertisement in the Swanton Enterprise this evening, eh?

Quite a few charges leveled at the Board.
Hmmm. . . wonder how many are true?

Before we get started, I should let you know something: the vast majority of our teachers and support staff members are of high caliber. These are quality people, and it shows in their work.

Having said that, I can honestly tell you that I have been absolutely flabbergasted at how these rational, calm, highly professional people suddenly turn into complete strangers when contract time rolls around. I have been appalled at the tactics to which this board has been subjected. The one common thread seems to be their OEA union rep, who storms into a room with a huge chip on his shoulder. Could his apparent attempts to justify his existence in his job be the problem here? I would prefer to think that is the case, especially when it comes to our support staff.

Well, for those of you so inclined to actually read the facts instead of only reading the rhetoric, I offer for your perusal the following documents:

First: the Tentative Agreement signed by both the SSSA representative and our Superintendent, which clearly shows what from the Aug. 28th mediation was agreed to by those parties on October 6, 2008 (when their signatures were affixed).
Tentative Agreement signed 10-6-2008

Second: the handwritten proposal by the SSSA on Aug. 28th which shows several items that were NOT agreed to by both parties. (and there are many . . . see if you recognize some of them)
SSSA handwritten proposal of 8-28 NOT agreed to

Third: the most recent written proposal by the Board negotiating team, handed to the SSSA on Oct. 6th via the federal mediator. (We received no written proposal back from the SSSA - only this lovely half-page ad in the Enterprise.)

Written proposal of 10-6-2008 from Board team to SSSA

Lest we forget, here is also a link to the Unfair Labor Practices that the SSSA has filed against the Board of Education, which they expect us to fight with your taxpayer dollars when we need to have our attorney answer for us.
ULP dated 10-3-2008

ULP dated 10-9-2008

(for reference, please see Ohio Revised Code section 4117 and remember that no proof is required prior to a ULP being filed . . . which is why these things are almost always dropped by the union as part of a contract settlement - which is what has always happened historically in Swanton, as well as the most recent SEA contract situation)

Therefore - as the written documentation clearly shows, the claims made in the Enterprise half-page ad and in the ULPs lack basis in fact. That includes the statement in the ad that insists there was an agreement on a "me too" clause. As the documentation shows, that statement - among many others - is false.

The members of the Board all welcome input from the residents of our district. Please feel free to contact any or all of us, after you have had a chance to read these documents.

It is very difficult to move forward in these negotiations when we are put into the position of fending off deliberate misrepresentations of the facts. Only when the SSSA and its OEA union rep decide to negotiate in a reasonable and adult manner will this contract have a chance to be settled. The Board representatives are ready and willing to do so. I only hope the SSSA team will decide to be willing as well.

Should you wish to ask the lead negotiator from the SSSA about the glaring statements in the Enterprise ad, please feel free to contact Betse Schmitz at 419-825-1630 or email her at: . Ms. Schmitz is not the only member of the SSSA negotiating team, but it is her signature on the TA and thus she holds the lead position.

(oh! my Board email address is: - whoever placed that ad in the Enterprise got that wrong, too)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Vote Is In . . .

. . . as of yesterday late afternoon, and although the teachers' contract was accepted by majority vote, it was NOT a unanimous vote. (actually, several teachers have indicated that the "no" votes were significant. . . )

As for our secretarial staff under the SSSA, they have rescinded their Oct. 6th strike notice which means they will be at their desks in our schools.

We held one marathon session on contract negotiations with the SSSA and a federal mediator yesterday (Monday), and will be scheduling the next mediation soon.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

It's In the Paper

Okay - not to worry! According to an article in today's paper, a "union spokesman" is quoted as saying the SEA will allow their membership to vote on their proposed contract on Monday.

That same article mentions our Swanton School Support Staff Association has decided to strike on Monday because a time and date had not been worked out where both sides could sit down together to discuss their contract.

Those of you who are members of a union know that when strike date is called, there is a way for the union to delay that strike, if so desired by that union. We can only assume that our nine SSSA employees have decided that they do not want to delay their strike.

That means the school district must be prepared with substitutes to fill in during the time the strike is actually in effect.

Our two negotiating teams could have set aside time to meet together last week. But without doing so, even if a mediation is scheduled on the weekend, the district must be prepared for Monday morning with substitutes since the SSSA refused to delay their strike date.

As has been demonstrated through our dealings with the SEA recently, once a contract is proposed, there are further union-determined steps that must be followed before that contract may be voted on and then implemented.

At Swanton, the SSSA has traditionally waited until the teachers have finalized the teachers' contract before going forward with negotiating the details on the SSSA contract. It has been a "me, too" situation - whatever the teachers receive in their contract language is exactly what the SSSA wants to be included in their contract.

This year, the teachers' contract will not be finalized until Monday after school, when the SEA membership votes. As the SSSA has refused to delay their strike date, that has put them seriously behind the eightball on their own contract process.

There is nothing from the Board that requires the SSSA to wait for the teachers' contract to be finalized, other than their own desire to do so. That is entirely their right.

Without the SSSA calling for a strike delay, we will have a few days of school where our nine secretaries are not at their posts.

This situation could have been handled much differently - and I am very disappointed that the SSSA has decided to take this course of action.

I have suggested to my fellow Board members that it would be in the best interests of everyone if these two contracts had staggered terms, instead of both coming up for renewal at the same time.

But that doesn't help the situation we face today.

Friday, October 3, 2008

SEA Refuses to Vote

The Swanton Education Association had scheduled a vote by their membership on the teachers' contract they wrote for today at 3:30 to 3:45 p.m.

However, at 4 o'clock today, I received notice that the SEA had refused to take a vote. When asked, they refused to indicate when they would do so.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Proposal Passes

Last night (Wednesday) at a special meeting of the Board, we held a vote on what is technically called a "Basis for the Agreement" on the teachers' contract. This is a formal document that is a step under that known as "Tentative Agreement", which contains all of the proposed contract stipulations requiring a vote.

This meeting was scheduled because Mr. Wiederman's removal from his wife's insurance did not free him to vote until Oct. 1st.

This "Basis for the Agreement" included exactly the same salary demands that I listed in an earlier post: a $200 "signing bonus" to be added to the base before the 3% general increase was applied in the first year; then a $300 stipend added to the base - again - before the 3% general increase was calculated.

This method thus results in a general increase of 3.7% the first year, and 4.1% in the second year. At the risk of repeating myself, all amounts added to the base salary become an integral part of that base, and therefore are carried forward ad infinitum. Forever.

After the motion was made to accept this document and seconded, Dennis Heban asked if there was any further discussion on the matter? Jeff Michael had a prepared statement to read. In it, he referred to having been spit upon by a teacher, and also the verbal threats he had received from another, as well as a couple of other parents. His characterization of those and similar acts as "sickening" was apt.

I had also prepared a statement to read. My goal was to let those in our audience know that this Board was UNITED - that we were united in our distaste of the document before us; that we were united in our understanding of the consequences if the measure should pass, and if the measure should fail.

Among other things, I said:
This is the decision before us tonight. On one hand, IF the proposal is rejected, we face a certain strike by our teaching staff and support staff, plus an additional expenditure of our tax dollars to pay for substitute teachers. Not a good thing. On the other hand, IF the proposal passes, we face a definite and large deficit in just a few short years – which will be even worse if the income tax levy does not pass. Again – not a good thing.

Dennis has characterized our situation as being forced to sacrifice our future for the present. I agree with him. We ALL agree with him.

I just wanted everyone in the audience to understand that each Board member up here has done his or her homework, and we all know exactly what is at stake, should this proposal stand – or fail. While only our individual votes will show each person’s opinion on what he/she feels is the best course of action in these circumstances, we are UNITED in our despair at the rock and hard place we are now between.

Dennis Heban, Mona Dyke, and Mike Wiederman also said a few, unscripted words. The mood was somber.

The vote was taken: 3 "yes" 2 "no". Motion carried.