By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Two weeks after contract negotiations broke down, the Cincinnati teachers union president said the teachers' relationship with the superintendent is severely damaged, and she accused him of lying about the negotiating process.
"I feel like he's totally broken trust," Cincinnati Federation of Teachers President Sue Taylor said Tuesday.
Superintendent Alton Frailey, however, said relations aren't badly damaged, and he hopes to continue negotiating with the union.
"I've heard too many positive comments from teachers over the past few weeks to accept that allegation," he said. "We will have a signed agreement. After which we will have to be positioned to work together. Calculated, inflammatory and sensationalized comments and tactics to poison the atmosphere are completely unnecessary."
Teachers say they need a facilitator to bring the two sides back together, but the damage between the two sides may be irreparable.
Negotiations came to a halt after the school board rejected a tentative agreement March 19 with the superintendent saying he couldn't support it. Meanwhile, 90 percent of voting union members supported the agreement March 19 and 20. A hearing is scheduled May 6 and 7, when a state-appointed fact-finder will review the tentative contract and make a ruling on disputed portions. His decision is binding, unless 60 percent of either the board or teachers rejects it.
Taylor said she doesn't understand why Frailey opposed the tentative contract when his own team negotiated it during 33 sessions and agreed to it March 9. The tentative three-year contract included a 3.2 percent raise this year for the district's 3,500 teachers, librarians, nurses, psychologists and counselors, and smaller raises the next two years.
At the time, Frailey said he couldn't support it because it included an employee severance incentive package, which the board never approved, and it didn't include language to pay teachers based on performance instead of only seniority.
Developing a new teacher pay system is important in Cincinnati because many community leaders want teachers paid based on performance. Many believe that would help improve the district's poor student achievement.
The union overwhelmingly rejected such a "pay-for-performance" system in 2002, saying the district's teacher evaluation process is convoluted and subjective and should not be tied to pay.
Now, the two sides are far from consensus on how to alter teacher pay.
Teachers had been willing to consider a new pay proposal, Taylor said, adding that she met with Frailey in January and offered several incentive-based pay plans being used around the nation, but his team never brought those to the table.
"From a political perspective, I said (his) team needs to initiate some kind of plan," she said, adding that the union would discuss it if the district put it on the table.
"No plan ever surfaced," she said.
Teachers, she said, won't support tying their pay to the district's current evaluation system because it's not working. Taylor said the 90-page evaluation document is too hard to understand and hundreds of teachers don't receive required annual evaluations.
Frailey said Taylor did share information on pay options during that meeting.
"The board's (negotiating) team was directed to try and get language committing us to developing a pay-for-performance plan," he said. "That was unsuccessful. It was never my intent to develop the plan in isolation and try and force it into the contract."
Though Frailey was not at the negotiating table, he said his team said the union wasn't interested in discussing pay-for-performance.
Taylor also said she doesn't understand why Frailey is opposed to the severance plan included in the tentative agreement when it was the district's idea - not the union's.
"It was on the board's very own first proposal they gave to us," she said.
Taylor said she's angry about the process and the superintendent's statements.
"Right now, there's no communication," she said. "We would find it a little difficult to believe what the superintendent has to say at this point."
Frailey disputes that he lied about the process following negotiations.
"I can't say that teachers have not received misinformation," he said. "If they have, I can assure you that it did not come from me or on my behalf."
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