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Revere teachers unhappy about contract extension

By admin Published: July 14, 2011

The Revere Board of Education voted Tuesday to impose a three-year contract extension with its teachers union over the union's objections that the deal, originally reached in March, had been rescinded at the district's request.

The union's current contract was to expire at the end of the upcoming school year, in summer 2012. The three-year extension replaces the final year of that contract and freezes wages and automatic pay raises tied to years of experience, called steps, through June 30, 2014.

Teachers pay a flat rate that is about 5 percent of the health insurance premium. In the second year of the contract extension, they will pay 10 percent if they join a wellness program and 15 percent if they don't. The district will pay teachers $500 in the second year and $750 in the third year to help offset those increases.

Paul Fisher, who became president of the Revere Education Association in May, tried to persuade board members to vote against the extension.

''Our objection was that we had rescinded that agreement,'' Fisher said. ''We wanted to continue to discuss an extension if we could, and if they didn't want to reach an extension, then we could live with one more year of our contract.''

Superintendent Randy Boroff said the original March agreement had to be implemented under Ohio law because the union never informed the district in writing that the union had rescinded the deal.

''I would have hoped for an email back just saying, 'Hey, we met, we voted and it's taken care of,'?'' Boroff said. ''We needed some kind of documentation.''

The union notified the district orally that the agreement was rescinded and is considering legal options.

Both sides discussed a contract extension this spring, hoping an agreement would help overcome opposition to passing a levy on the May ballot and temporarily shield teachers from Senate Bill 5, which restricts collective bargaining rights.

They agreed on an oral proposal in March to a three-year contract extension.

But district officials realized that unanticipated state budget cuts meant the treasurer couldn't sign off on a three-year contract ahead of the May election. The school board announced at a special meeting in early April that it would not approve the contract.

Ohio law says that an agreement ratified by both sides, but not approved by the board, takes effect within 30 days unless the union formally rescinds.

''We were very well aware of that 30-day rule,'' Fisher said. ''That's why we rescinded as requested. We rescinded on April 18 at our REA meeting and went back to the negotiating table that very day.''

He said the union, which represents 220 teachers, secretaries and aides, told the district the deal was off the table. However, Fisher said, a school board member sent him an email demanding written proof.

Fisher directed the board member to correspond with the union's attorney. He said the union's minutes are not public record.

The union met twice with district officials to renegotiate a contract extension, once before the levy passed and once afterward. Fisher said the union's last contact with the district was in May.

''We were willing to give up the stipend in order to return the steps, which we really think is a fairness issue to our younger teachers who are at the bottom of the pay scale trying to work their way up,'' Fisher said. ''To be frozen for the next three years where they are right now, I think is pretty unfair.''

Passage of the state's two-year budget might make the issue of step increases irrelevant, however.

Revere teachers agreed to help the district get a four-year, $100,000 federal grant to participate in President Obama's ''Race to the Top'' school-reform program.

The state budget requires Race to the Top districts to replace the salary schedule of step increases for service and attainment of advanced academic degrees with a merit-pay system. The state assured unions that merit pay would not be imposed upon them if they agreed to help the state apply for the $400 million grant.

The Revere teachers union might withdraw from the four-year program, which still has three years to go, Fisher said.

Boroff thinks other districts that receive the minimum $25,000 a year might end up dropping out of Race to the Top, too.

''I have to believe that there's a chance that all those districts that are going to get minimal funding, somehow people will start bailing out of Race to the Top,'' he said.

John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or jhiggins@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.

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