Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Public Information

There are all kinds of information that - once written - become a matter of "public record" and, thus, available to anyone and everyone who asks for a copy.   Sometimes a public record deserves to be shared even when individuals haven't actually asked for it yet, just so that the information is shared with as many as possible.  The following text was prepared by interim Superintendent Russ Griggs and emailed to SEA (teachers' union) spokesman Steve Brehmer.  It contains a lot of information in a concise manner that you may find interesting.  Take a look - see what you think.  (emphasis added)

"Swanton teachers deserve a fair contract"
Such a statement immediately implies that Swanton Teachers have been treated unfairly. Let us take a look at the circumstances surrounding recent and current conditions related to Swanton Teachers.

Swanton Teachers currently are and will continue to have the second highest starting pay for teachers in Fulton County.

Top teacher pay for Swanton Teachers in Fulton County is and will remain the third highest.

In recent contracts, past three years, Swanton Teachers received the highest base pay increases in Fulton County. They are among the highest raises in the state of Ohio. In 2008-09 base pay increased 3.7%, in 2009-10 base pay increased 4%, in 2010-2011 base pay increased 3 %.

No Swanton Teacher will receive a decrease in gross pay. As a result of what the board implemented:

Twelve (12) teachers will receive a 37% increase in gross salary from 2009-2012

Twenty nine (29) teachers will receive a 14-36% increase in gross pay from 2009-2012

Twenty six (26) teachers will receive a 7-10% increase in pay from 2009-2012

The average pay increase for teachers over three years is 18%

With the base freeze for 2011-2012 the average increase for Swanton Teachers is 3%

Forty seven (47) Swanton Teachers will receive 3-5% increases for this year 2011-2012

Twenty Eight (28) Swanton Teachers will not receive a raise out of 88 teachers for this year (2011-2012)

Swanton Teachers currently pay the lowest share of health insurance premiums for the best health insurance plan in Fulton County. The board has implemented a 10 % share of premium from the teachers beginning in February 2012

The single plan has a deductible of $100.00, the family plan has a $300.00 deductible.

Out of pocket health plan expenses for Swanton Teachers are the lowest in the county.

In a recent story on TV, the spokesperson for the Swanton Teacher Association reported that the Board of Education was unwilling to talk to the teachers.

In the five months I have been interim superintendent, four negotiating sessions took place, three with federal mediators. During those five months the SEA has refused to give a counter proposal to the board, refused to accept the board proposals and refused to take the board offer to the teachers. The SEA uses the same negotiator who has also failed to settle contracts in Delta and Springfield Local Schools. All the other local districts in Fulton and Lucas County have settled their contracts. The Swanton board has not required teachers to do anything that all the other teachers in the county, except Delta, have already agreed to in recent contracts.

Everyone deserves a fair contract. The SEA demands for base increase would make Swanton teachers the highest beginning paid teachers in the county. The same OEA representative will represent Wauseon in negotiations later this year. His goal then will be to make Wauseon teachers number one once again with a fair contract there.

I also learned from a TV news report that the SEA voted to authorize a strike. The SEA decided to release this information to the media, not the school board, and blast the board for not talking to the teachers at the same opportunity. Regardless of the outcome of the threat of strike, the Swanton taxpayers will need to renew the Emergency levy in 2012, at a higher millage rate due to declining tax values, pass a sizable increase in taxes either property or income, and possibly face a bond issue for a new building. In addition, cuts in expenditures and programs will need to take place. All of these things may be necessary in the next three to five years.

The threat of a strike has a negative impact on a school district. An actual strike tears the community apart as witnessed by the long term damage done in district where strikes have occurred.


This document is not empty rhetoric - it clearly lays out the facts.  I'm not sure why the SEA believes that these facts will miraculously change once the new board takes office in January, but their spokesman Mr. Brehmer has stated to the media that they are waiting for that to happen. 

Here's what I think:  The children of Swanton Local School District deserve an excellent education and the Taxpayers of the same district deserve to have their tax dollars spent wisely to accomplish that educational goal.  Going bankrupt by refusing to contain costs/expenditures never improves a family's home budget - why would it be any different for a school district??  Answer:  It is no different at all. 

At least now you know the "rest of the story" and not only what has been stated by the SEA negotiating team to the media.

Friday, December 16, 2011

December News

Our December meeting included board recognition of several students and student groups and their great achievements - but I'm sure all of that has now been overshadowed by the very last thing we addressed on our agenda that night, which was for the board to implement our last best offer of a contract to our teachers.

Our two negotiating teams have held various meetings to discuss the contract since April 2011.  A federal mediator was eventually agreed to by both sides, and yet an agreement was not reached.  I read on Facebook today the following posting by the Swanton Enterprise:

The Swanton teachers’ union approved authorization yesterday to send the board of education a 10-day strike notice after 10 months of negotiations proved unsuccessful.The Swanton Education Association voted unanimously at a general membership meeting to allow its bargaining team to set a strike date should the BOE continue to decline further contract talks. More in Tuesday's Enterprise

Interesting that we learn of these things on Facebook!  Such is modern life these days.

A press release was prepared by our interim superintendent, Russ Griggs, as follows:

The Board of Education of Swanton Local Schools and the Swanton Education Association have been negotiating since April 2011 for a successor collective bargaining agreement. The Board’s contract with the SEA expired August 31, 2011. The parties were unable to reach agreement even with the assistance of a federal mediator. Because the parties were at impasse, the Board voted on December 13, 2011 to implement its last best offer to the SEA.

The Board understands that the SEA took a vote on December 15, 2011 to authorize a strike. The Board has not received official notice of the vote and has not received any ten day strike notice from the SEA.

The Swanton Board of Education is committed to maintaining quality education in the district, and providing fair wages and benefits to the district’s teachers and other employees. Like many other area school districts, however, the district’s expenditures exceed and are projected to continue to exceed its revenues and it must act within the limits of fiscal responsibility.

Questions may be directed to the district’s Interim Superintendent, Russ Griggs, who will be available Monday, December 19, 2011 in the Board of Education office.

Anyone interested in knowing the terms of the contract implemented and the financial pieces related to it are welcome to ask Mr. Griggs for a copy of a notice he sent to all teachers on Wednesday afternoon.  As it is public record, anyone may ask for a copy.
I can only express my great disappointment in this latest action by the union. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

November News

Our regular meeting for November followed the standard format of opening, financial reports and minutes being approved, etc.  A slightly unusual donation was made by my cousin, Norm Bratton (Jr.) - when his mom passed away recently, he discovered a small bank balance for the Class of 1942 in a savings account that she had managed as treasurer.  This amount ($28.36) he had issued to the district on a bank check.  Board member Mona Dyke suggested that it go toward the Swanton Foundation as other similar donations had done before, and the rest of us agreed.

One of the important decisions made that evening was to hire Joyce Kinsman as our new CFO/Treasurer.  Mrs. Kinsman has been the treasurer for the Pike-Delta-York district for the past 9 years and brings a lot of applicable experience to the position in Swanton.  She may not be as tall as our former treasurer, but she has every bit of the spunk - and expertise.  We are glad to have her aboard!  She will officially begin her duties here in mid-December.

The next "big" thing on our agenda was a PowerPoint presentation by two seniors who participate in the recently formed "Interact" group at the high school.  First, let me give some information on this organization.  "Interact" is Rotary International's service club for young people (age 12 -18).  Interact clubs are sponsored by local Rotary clubs, which provide support and guidance, but the clubs are self-governing and self-supporting.  Each year, Interact clubs complete as least 2 community service projects, one of which fosters international understanding and goodwill.  Our new Swanton Rotary Interact club meets once a week in the high school media center.  Rotarians help facilitate their weekly meetings.  Our group has been broken into 3 committees:  Community Service, School Spirit, and Community Relations.

Right now, our high school Interact club has three short term projects they are working on: 
  • Selling granite tiles to SHS seniors and SHS alumni.  Tiles are laser engraved, and will be on permanent display in the high school.
  • Students plan to clean up the creek bank on the East side of the football stadium, and also plan to work with the Village to stem erosion there.
  • A fundraiser to obtain an English bulldog as a school mascot.
It was this last project that the PowerPoint presentation addressed at our board meeting.  The boys did a nice job pleading their case, and we really admire and appreciate their willingness to bring this presentation to the Board.  Of course, we are talking about a living creature here, and so there are other concerns that should be addressed.  Board member Kris Oberheim owns 2 of this type of dog, and can speak from experience on their care, temperament, etc.  She had several pertinent comments and questions for the guys and suggested that they do some more research as the Board would do as well, before a decision is made. 

I'm not sure why the club didn't consider finding a current owner among our residents (Ted Haselman also owns one - who else out there does??) and possibly work with that owner to have that pet be a mascot at the games, etc.  But perhaps they DID consider that and decided they preferred to try this route instead.  I don't know.  Having been a dog owner my entire life, I had a lot of questions on their proposal - but Mrs. Oberheim's comments were sufficient that night.

We next approved a 3 year agreement to have Rose Photography continue as our official district photographer. 

Another important action taken that night was to agree to place a renewal of the Emergency Levy on the ballot this coming Spring.  It would NOT be a "new" tax levy - it is a renewal of an existing levy.  This levy collects around $825,000 annually, and given the state of our 5 yr. forecast it is clear to see that its renewal is important for our district.

Our December meeting was set for Tuesday the 13th, and we approved a revision of board policy 9270.

A quick discussion was held on the Swanton Rec program.  There is some interest in doing a new joint venture with the Village on this program, which would include using the school district as a taxing agent to obtain money for Swanton Rec in a fashion similar to that of the Swanton Public Library.  The former board's goal was for Swanton Rec to become its own entity . . . but that plan has apparently derailed.  If the school district is used as its taxing agent, I'm not sure how the taxes collected will be spent:  programs?  handed over to the Village for park maintenance?  It might be a bit too early for these kinds of questions, but they will eventually need to be addressed.

Michelle Tyson had attended the OSBA conference in Columbus recently, and said a few words about that.  I don't know what seminars or sessions she attended during her stay.

We had one executive session that night, to discuss employee employment and negotiations.  A new meeting date was scheduled with the SEA bargaining team for Dec. 8th.  Depending on its outcome, we will take action at our Dec. 13th board meeting.