Thursday, January 06, 2000

CPS, union OK fact-finder

Schools, teachers want independent review of contract dispute

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Unable to agree to a new contract, Cincinnati Public Schools administrators and teachers' union officials agreed to submit unresolved issues to a state-appointed, independent fact-finder today.

        Marcus Hart Sandver, appointed by the State Employment Relations Board will hear the district's and Cincinnati Federation of Teachers' presentations today and Friday.

        The three-year contract for the 45,600-student district's 3,300 teachers was to expire Dec. 31, but both sides agreed to extend it until after the fact-finder's report is done.

        The biggest sticking points are pay raises, hiring and evaluation and review programs, CFT President Tom Mooney said.

        Specifically, the union wants a 4 percent pay raise each year for three years, Mr. Mooney said.

        The administration wants to freeze teachers' salaries until August and offered a 2 percent raise for the contract's final two years, conditional on the passage of levies the district will seek in March, Mr. Mooney said.

        Attorney Mark Stepaniak, who represents the district in negotiations, pointed out that CPS teachers are highest-paid among Ohio's eight urban districts and second-highest in Hamilton County.

        Besides, the district can't afford pay raises, especially since voters in November defeated a tax increase, he added. Schools have suffered two rounds of deep budget cuts since last spring.

        The two sides also disagree on teacher hiring.

        The current contract requires that teachers displaced due to reorganization or budget cuts be placed in a “surplus pool.” Short-staffed schools must pick new teachers from that pool if qualified applicants are available.

        But administrators want to change that policy and give schools broader hiring powers under a reform to decentralize the district and give teachers and principals more autonomy.

        Under the district's proposal, schools wouldn't be restricted to hiring from that pool.

        Surplus teachers would work as long-term substitutes until a permanent placement is found.

        Union leaders say such a plan could hurt morale and cost the district good teachers during a time of growing teacher shortages locally and nationally.

        Administrators also want veteran teachers to focus on mentoring struggling teachers in the district's Peer Assistance and Evaluation Program; veterans now evaluate and mentor rookie teachers as well as struggling veterans.

        Removing the rookies' review likely would boost attrition rates among new teachers, Mr. Mooney said.

        The CFT also is negotiating a contract for about 400 school secretaries and central-office workers. That contract already has gone to a fact-finder.


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