Sunday, August 06, 2000

Teachers will stay on the job

Talawanda, Edgewood contract talks stalled

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        Teachers in the Talawanda and Edgewood schools will return to the classrooms this month with no master contract after negotiations broke down in both districts over money issues.

        They will work under the terms of their expired contracts until both sides have presented their cases to a fact finder. The fact-finding hearing is Aug. 29 for Talawanda and Aug. 31 for Edgewood.

        Mediation has been attempted but failed in both districts, said Diana Herbe, a labor relations consultant for the Ohio Education Association, who is assisting the Talawanda Education Association and the Edgewood Teachers Association.

        “Anything we can offer is contingent on November,” said William Vollmer, president of the Talawanda Board of Education. “We're not willing to give raises right after cuts.”

        Talawanda has also reached an impasse with its support staff, Ms. Herbe said. A mediation hearing is slated for early September.

        Voters in the Talawanda Schools have rejected levies on the ballot twice in the past 10 months, including one that provided money to increase teacher salaries. Following those rejections, the board approved a 15-point plan that reduces district spending by almost $600,000.

        “We truly understand their position and agree they're underpaid,” said Talawanda Treasurer James Rowan. “Right now our inability to pass a levy forces us to make decisions that aren't in the best interest of kids.”

        A 6.5 mill levy that would raise $2.86 million annually has been put on the Nov. 7 ballot. If approved, it would allow the district to restore most cuts, raise teacher salaries and keep the district solvent for the next three to four years, Mr. Rowan said. Currently, the base pay for a Talawanda teacher with a bachelor's degree and no experience is $23,692, the lowest in Butler County.

        “The district is at a crossroads. They are losing veteran teachers to other districts,” Ms. Herbe said. “It's causing a lot of bad morale.”

        In the Edgewood Schools, the association this week filed an unfair labor practice against the board, claiming its negotiators practiced regressive bargaining after removing an earlier proposal from the table that was more favorable to teachers. The two sides disagree over the impact certain factors — such as experience or advanced degrees — should have on the salary schedule.

        “Edgewood is in a position that local funding needs to be replenished,” Ms. Herbe said. “There has long been a belief, a promise that has come from the administration ... that they would like to get teachers' salaries close to the top of the county. We made strides but last year slipped. The top end of the salary lagged.”

        Edgewood officials confirmed they are going to fact finding but declined to comment further, citing a clause in the contract that prohibits them from discussing negotiations with the media.


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