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Archbold Teacher Contract Talks At Impasse; Call For Fact Finder




Contract negotiations between the Archbold Area School Board and the Archbold Education Association have reached an impasse.

As a result, the two sides will go before an arbitrator from the State Employment Relations Board in a fact-finding hearing.

The information was released by the school board in a Tuesday, Nov. 20 press release and confirmed by Ben Gericke, AEA president.

The school board commented on the negotiations, but Gericke said he was disappointed that David Deskins, district superintendent, and board members decided to release the information.

In an email message to this newspaper, Gericke said, “I was under the assumption that any negotiated items would be released jointly. I am disappointed this is the direction Mr. Deskins and the board has decided to take.

“We, as a staff, will not negotiate through the media,” Gericke said.

History

The school board and the AEA are in the second year of a three-year master contract, and have been negotiating through a re-opener clause in the master contract. The re-opener only allows the two sides to discuss salaries and insurance issues.

Discussions between the two sides began in April 2007. During the early discussions, the school board negotiating team made a wage-and-insurance offer. The AEA negotiators rejected the offer, the board said.

At the end of the 2006-07 school year, negotiations were postponed, then restarted in the fall, at the start of the 2007-08 school year.

The board said a second offer was made, and the AEA team rejected it.

1.5% Offer

At that point, the board said the AEA called for a federal mediator to assist in the discussions. The school board agreed to the request, and on Oct. 29, the mediator sat down with the two sides.

The AEA negotiating team asked the board’s team to agree to an offer of a 1.5% increase in base salary for each of the next two school years, 2007-08 and 2008-09. The offer included a stipulation that there were to be no change in the employee contribution toward the teachers’ medical insurance plan.

The board agreed to accept the tentative offer.

On Nov. 1, the AEA negotiating team presented the tentative offer to the AEA rank and file, who, by majority vote, refused to ratify the agreement.

Fact Finding

Arthur J. Marziale, Jr., executive director of SERB, said under fact-finding, an independent, neutral third party is appointed. Both sides present casestothefactfinder. The fact finder then prepares a written report.

Either side can accept or reject the fact-finder’s report.

Marziale said if the report is rejected by either side, the possibility of a strike exists.

Marziale said the fact-finding process “can be a splash of water on the face.”

He estimated that the factfinding process would take about six weeks.

If the process is unsuccessful, the AEA must notify the school board of an intent to strike, he said.

Spending Tax Dollars

In the press release, Deskins said, “Based upon our discussion with many members of our community, our residents were, and are, concerned about how we are spending public tax dollars even though approximately $1.5 million in reductions have already been made.”

Thanks to the reductions and the passage of a property tax levy, the district’s five-year fi- nancial forecast has improved, he said.

“To think that we have made gains in the forecast, only to turn around and give the savings away in anything less than modest pay increases, is not the understanding we received from members of our community.

“While we most certainly value the work of our teachers, we must also remain mindful of the wishes of the public, and we feel their position was clear with two failed levy efforts last year,” Deskins said.

David Yoder, board president, stated, “I believe the board has tried to be very sensitive to the importance of maintaining exceptional teachers for our children and, in previous years, we have been in a financial position to be able to grant significant raises in their salaries.

“However, with the offer they (the AEA) gave to us (the 1.5% per year) we felt we could give a modest increase while at the same time, preserving the resources we have been entrusted with by taxpayers,” Yoder said.

Steps

Teachers earn pay raises based on years of experience in the classroom, plus additional education. For each year of teaching, a teacher moves up one step on the salary schedule.

There are plateaus built into the schedule where a teacher may go for a few years without a step increase.

When the base pay increases, the amount of money paid at each step raises by that amount. An expression, “A rising tide raises all boats,” describes the situation.

Yoder said if the base salary goes up 1.5%, it will cost the board 3.38% in 2007-08 and 3.53% in 2008-09 because of the step increases that nearly half of AEA members will receive for each additional year of service.

Deskins said the board believes the AEA has, “received competitive compensation when you consider the market. They currently rank among the top districts in northwest Ohio in salary comparison, and are in the lower half in their contribution to their own medical insurance premiums.”

Scott Miller, school board vice president, said, “When you consider the seniority steps contained in the salary schedule, our teachers have, on average, received a total salary increase of 5.37% per year since 2002- 03.

“I can’t think of many businesses here in our area that have seen those types of increases, particularly with little change in insurance costs during that same period.”

In the release, Cheryl Storrer, board member, said, “Even if you consider the modest 1.5% increase that the union negotiating team offered, along with steps, our teachers will have averaged a 4.73% increase in each of the last seven years.”

Not Just Money

Gericke said, “Our issues are not totally about money.

“We as educators are not looking to ‘break the bank.’

“There are other issues that play a part in this process, which we choose not to discuss through the media.”

He said, “But I will say the way Mr. Deskins and the board have chosen to go about this may speak volumes to one of the issues.”

Gericke said the school district has tremendous teachers that continue to do what they do best, educating the young minds of Archbold students.

“With the help of our great parents, we have been an excellent school district seven years in a row, and we are striving toward eight.

“We have great students, parents, teachers, and principals walking the hallways of our schools,” Gericke said. nique, Eucharistic ministers; Evelyn Roth, Arlene Hicks, lectors; Richard Roth, Greg Grime, Nick Wlasiuk, Chuck McColl, ushers; Emerence Grime, Rosary leader; Peg Hines, music; Ben, Julie, and Nathan Rosenbauer, offertory.

Wednesday: Morning Rosary followed by mass; evening religious education classes.

United Methodist

Sunday: Jon and Jackie Wyse, Laura, Sarah, and Evan, greeters; Steve Pape, Rick Stotzer, Matt Welch, Brian Huffman, ushers; Krista Leupp, Paige Merillat, acolytes; Colleen Bernath, organist; Claiborne Vonier, liturgist; Cindy Rose, Claire Morton, Mark Erbskorn, Steve VanSickle, quartet. Message, David David.

Wednesday: Groundbreakers, Applause Handbell choir, 6:30 p.m.; high school youth, 7 p.m.; Chancel choir, 7:30 p.m.

West Clinton Mennonite

Sunday: Jeff, Wanda, Justin, Ellen and Kathryn Roth, greeters; Brian Waidelich, prelude; Terry and Terri Rufenacht, worship leaders; Jeff Roth, song leader. Meditation, “Images of Mission.”

Wednesday: Ladies Bible study, 5:45 a.m.; CQ Christmas drama practice, 5:30 p.m.; MYF, 7 p.m.

Zion Mennonite

Sunday: David and Linda Nafziger, Brad Short, Jeff Wyse, Ty Yoder, ushers; Marv and Vicki Nafziger, Glen and Doris Nafziger, greeters; Karen Stuckey, prelude, interlude, offering and offertory; Mona Sauder, children’s lesson; choir, If God Be For Us, Who Can Be Against Us? Canticle of Hope; Jessica Schrock-Ringenberg, prayer for church and world; Caleb Liechty, Meg Short, scripture readers. Sermon, “Now What? Now Where?” Mona Sauder.

Wednesday: Zion bells, 5:30 p.m.; Life Planning, 7 p.m.




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