By Dottie McGrew
Special to the Beacon Journal
NORTH CANTON: The Board of Education voted Monday morning to approve a three-year contract with its teachers that both sides said reflects the uncertain nature of school funding in Ohio.
Members of the North Canton Education Association unanimously ratified a tentative agreement Sunday.
The contract calls for an across-the-board 1.5 percent salary increase in the first year. Wage adjustments in years two and three could be up to 2 percent — based on teacher education, teaching experience and revenue received from state and local sources. If additional state and local revenue is not received, however, no salary increases would be awarded, district Treasurer Todd Tolson said.
“We went into contract negotiations knowing there was some interest on the part of the legislature for some additional funding for North Canton, but we didn’t know how much. It made sense to put contingency language in the budget,” Superintendent Michael Hartenstein said. “If we receive additional money beyond what we anticipate, we would be happy to share some with the association. If we don’t, we won’t.
“It’s business practice brought into school finance: If you have the money, you pay a dividend to shareholders. If you don’t, you don’t,” Hartenstein said.
There was no change in health-care payments in the new contract. The district will continue to pay 90 percent of medical premiums, with teachers paying 10 percent.
“We wanted to put together a financial package that would be fair to teachers and the school district. We believe we have done that,” said Skip Baran, president of the North Canton Education Association.
The district employs 285 teachers.
Contract negotiations began in April. The former two-year contract expired in June.
A mediator called in at the midpoint of negotiations “worked out very well because we were able to see what kind of state money would be available,” Baran said. “With that information, we came up with an agreement that benefited both parties. Without it, we could not have reached agreement.”
Board President Chris Thomas said that “because of state funding cuts in recent years, teachers took a pay freeze with the understanding that when money became available, it would be shared. This contract shows cooperation between the administration and teachers.”
In addition to economic issues, agreement was reached on the new evaluation system that holds teachers accountable for student success on state-mandated tests.