Tuesday, March 16, 2004

CPS contract may unravel



By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A tentative three-year contract agreement reached by the Cincinnati teachers union and school board representatives is in jeopardy, the president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers said Monday.

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Cincinnati School Board members Melanie Bates and Rick Williams gathered with members (l-r) Kazi Wilkins, Lauren McDonough Renneker, Milton Hinton, Craig Maier, Rev. Calvin Harper, Eileen Cooper Reed, Ronda Deel, and Emily Spicer.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
Some board members, in fact, said they had not heard full details of the agreement before this weekend even though negotiations have been going on since December.

Sue Taylor, the union president, would not say why the agreement is in jeopardy, but she called an emergency meeting of her bargaining team Monday to discuss changes, along with an emergency meeting today of her executive council.

"Things have changed. It would be premature for me to comment," she said.

The agreement calls for a 3.2 percent raise this year and smaller increases the next two years for the district's 3,500 teachers, librarians, counselors, nurses, psychologists and counselors, according to a document posted on the union's Web site.

Negotiators for the union and board of education have been working privately on the tentative agreement. A one-year contract extension approved in December 2002 expired Dec. 31. Teachers are working on a day-to-day extension.

Board members have not been part of the negotiating team.

For the agreement to become a final contract, the school board and union membership must approve it. Votes have not been scheduled.

In addition to this year's base salary raise, the agreement calls for a 3 percent raise in 2005. The agreement also includes a 2.7 percent increase in 2006.

The average teacher salary is $54,626, one of the highest in Southwest Ohio.

One board member criticized the agreement as having too many pay increases but little accountability for low student achievement.

"It's all about additional money being spent without changes to impact student achievement," said board member Rick Williams.

The state has labeled the 38,800-student district in "academic emergency," the lowest of five state rankings.

Williams also criticized the proposal for not requiring teachers to be paid on their teaching performance rather than the current system of paying them based on seniority.

Teachers overwhelmingly voted down a pay-for-performance system two years ago.

Taylor said the board's negotiating team never made proposals to change the teacher pay structure.

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E-mail jmrozowski@enquirer.com

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