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Teachers press board for contract
South-Western Education Association (SWEA) union members gathered at the district office for the Jan. 10 meeting with a message for the board of education.
"We are eager to move forward with a fair and equitable agreement," was that message.
The contract expired on June 30. SWEA represents approximately 1,430 licensed educators, including teachers and guidance counselors. Since the end of November, union members have been working to the rule, which means no extra time on the clock.
SWEA president Rolla Beach said the last bargaining session with the board of education took place on Dec. 20. At this time, there are no future bargaining sessions scheduled.
"We are hoping to get back to the bargaining table," said Beach. "It's been quite a long time without a contract."
Beach would not comment on the last bargaining session or the sticking points of the contract, but did say he was "more hopeful" after the latest session.
Bill Wise, district superintendent, added, "After the talks with SWEA in December, I was more hopeful that some movement was accomplished. I don't know that we are significantly closer together, but at least we are addressing the issues."
Although the union members or the board has not commented on the contract details, community members assume employees want a pay increase. Many believe, with the poor economy, it is the wrong time to ask for more money.
District treasurer High Garside has said the district could see a decrease in state funding of up to 10 percent. He said some estimates were even higher. If the state cut 10 percent of its education budget, South-Western would lose $9 million a year.
Julie Haack is a teacher at Jackson Middle School and a union member. She has been with the district for 22 years. She is also a district resident. She said, like many other residents, she wants the board of education to be fiscally responsible, but not at the expense of students.
Haack said she went to school in South-Western City Schools. She said teachers always helped in any way they could. She wanted to repay that.
"I believe I make a difference each and every day," said Haack.
Haack said she fears opportunities for students would decline as the quality of working for the district declines.
Camilla McComb is a teacher at Hayes Intermediate. She is also a graduate of Grove City High School. She told the board that teachers, like students, need to feel safe and supported. She questioned whether the board was a supportive presence.
Cartell Payne is a veteran teacher in the district. She said she has always worked with experienced, inspired and loyal teachers who are committed to the students and the community. She kept repeating words for the board to ponder, "recruit, respect and retention."
Beach said union members have not felt appreciated by district leaders. He said they have made many sacrifices for the district.
The board did not comment on the negotiations or the teachers' comments.
The board has also failed to reach an agreement with the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) union, which represents classified staff. The last meeting with OAPSE union members was held Oct. 7.
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