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Bexley teachers continue to work without a contract
Despite ongoing negotiations and a disruption in some after and before school programs, teachers in Bexley Schools continue to work without a contract.
Teachers were close to an agreement with the school district in May, but were not satisfied with the salary increase proposed by the board members. Negotiations stalled until school resumed.
"The board wants some time to rethink and ask teachers to rethink," Superintendent Michael Johnson said of the withdrawal. "The economy is the worst it's been. In our community, individuals make money through sales and commissions are way down."
Last spring during negotiations the economy seemed to be, although bad, not devastating, Johnson said.
"Through the summer the district received information regarding finances that showed some concern for the future," he said. "Until those things turn around, everyone is real nervous about committing more money and having expenditures go up because of raises."
Mindy Hall, president of the Bexley Education Association union, said the state of the economy guided the union to ask for less money on the base salary than has been granted to all but one "excellent" rated school system in Franklin County.
"We stayed well within the amount the board and superintendent told us at the table last spring they could afford," Hall said.
With retirements and stimulus money received by the district, Hall said the union did not believe the raise would cost the district anything in the first year. While the teachers' union and the district could compromise on a shorter contract, they would then be in negotiations throughout this school year, which is not recommended.
The average Bexley teacher has 15 years experience, a master's degree and makes $73,698 a year, District Treasurer Christopher Essman said.
"We have a very highly experienced staff," he said.
Teachers did not receive a salary increase for the 2009-2010 school year, although 74 percent received step increases for continuing education or for the length of tenure in the school district, Essman said. Step increases ranged from 0.5 percent to 7 percent.
The last income tax was passed in 2004, Essman said. The district was trying to go six years without having to go back to the voters.
The district receives a state income tax that is dispersed four times a year. Comparisons of the July 2008 and July 2009 payouts show a 33 percent drop with an estimated overall loss of $1.4 million.
While the district is in a solid financial situation, Essman said, there is a need to ask for a new levy by November 2010.
Classrooms in Bexley schools are not being affected by the lack of teacher contract, both district officials and Hall said. Those students who arrive early to school or stay late for free tutoring are not receiving assistance and some of the extra clubs and groups are not meeting at this time.
Anything without a supplemental contract is not being completed. Parent-teacher conferences are going to take place, as well as all college recommendations are being written, school officials say.
"This is really about respect," Hall said. "The board has not talked to us nor have they explained anything to us, aside from an abrupt letter delivered to us via the federal mediator on Sept. 10."
There were no negotiations that evening. Hall said the teachers met with the federal mediator in good faith, but that the board did not.
"In a district that not only expects excellence but is rewarded for it, teachers work above and beyond by embracing best practices, participating in tons of professional development and spending countless hours differentiating instruction to meet the needs of each individual student," Hall said. "The board and administration praise us and remind us that one of our district priorities is social emotional development. We are not feeling it. We would like them to practice what they preach."
Negotiations are currently ongoing. The board has a proposal on the table and is waiting for a counter to occur within the context of mediation sometime in October.
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