Akron teachers and administrators are expected to vote separately on an arbitrator’s recommendations for a new labor contract as the school continues to operate under a contract that effectively expired 18 months ago.
Akron Education Association President Pat Shipe said recommendations made by a fact-finder would be either accepted or rejected during a vote scheduled Sunday night. Akron school board President Jason Haas gathered with administration and fellow board members behind closed doors Thursday afternoon to discuss the same recommendations. Haas expects the board to vote publicly during a regularly scheduled board meeting Monday.
Should both sides accept the recommendations, which aim to reconcile various issues, the contract could be ratified Monday, putting and end to a lengthy negotiation process.
“I’d really like to put this to rest. It’s been a long time,” said Haas, who steps down in January after not seeking re-election to the board.
Each side has been hung up on different issues.
For the board, “the most significant sticking points have been salary and health-care concessions [or] insurance,” Haas said, noting rising health-care costs.
As the state rolled out a new budget in the summer, the possibility of salary increases was shrouded by uncertain state funding levels. The school has since received the state’s maximum increase, and an adjusted financial forecast released in October shows the district on surer footing, especially after voters approved a 7.9-mill levy more than a year ago.
For the union, fringe benefits and binding arbitration have been the major sticking points through nearly two years of negotiations.
“We’re the only urban district in the state that does not have binding arbitration,” Shipe said.
It is rare for the school board to vote against an independent mediator’s suggestions. An exception came in 2011 when the board voted in opposition to an arbitrator’s opinion to grant a supplemental contract for former Firestone High School boys basketball coach Joe Wojcik.
Shipe said membership will meet at 7 p.m. Sunday to consider ratifying a contract.
“If both sides accept it then we have a contract,” Shipe said. “If one side rejects it, then we sit down and have a small window for mediation.”
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com.