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Still no contracts for teachers
Hundreds of South-Western Education Association (SWEA) union members packed the district office for the Nov. 15 board of education meeting.
They wore SWEA T-shirts and held signs that read, “South-Western Educators Are United.”
The union contract expired June 30.
SWEA president and Grove City High School English teacher Rolla Beach said, “In recent years, our members have made many sacrifices, not the least of which was, in 2009, to agree to extend their contract an additional year with no increase in base salary.”
SWEA represents 1,430 teachers, guidance counselors and other licensed educators.
Beach said the bargaining team suggested the implementation of work to the rule. As part of work to the rule, employees would fulfill their contractual obligations, but nothing more.
Beach said the union members have been encouraged not to put in extra time. For example, teachers who volunteer to stay an hour after school to tutor students, would be encouraged to leave and not volunteer their time tutoring.
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly,” said Beach. “It will be hard to do because our members are so dedicated and accustomed to working seemingly endless hours.
Finally, though, we have to say ‘enough.’”
Beach said the union could have agreed to implement work to the rule in the summer, but did not in the hopes of reaching a contract agreement with the board of education.
Beach would not comment on the terms of the agreement, but said SWEA members do not feel appreciated by the district leadership.
The last bargaining session was held on Oct. 19. A federal mediator will set up future bargaining sessions. At the time, no sessions are scheduled.
“We would like to resolve the remaining issues and get a fair contract settlement so that we can move forward,” said Beach.
SWEA members did face opposition at the meeting.
District resident Terry Jones said SWEA union members have demonstrated that they do not care about the students, schools or the community. He said they were trying to intimidate the school board by showing up in mass.
“Apparently, the only way to get SWEA members to a board meeting is to have contract negotiations,” said Jones. “If they really cared, they would attend meetings more frequently.”
Though the terms of the contract were not discussed, Jones believes it is the wrong time to ask for more money.
District Treasurer Hugh Garside said a 10 percent decrease in state funding is expected over the next few years due to the $8 billion state deficit. A 10 percent reduction would mean a loss of $9 million a year for South-Western.
Jones said the employees need to realize their paycheck comes from the taxpayers. He said they should have made concessions a long time ago.
“It’s time for SWEA members to step up and share the financial burden with the rest of us,” said Jones.
Employee salaries and benefits make up over 80 percent of district expenditures.
The board did not comment on the matter.
Prior to the board meeting, SWEA members held a food drive to donate canned and boxed goods to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. Overall, they donated over 6,700 pounds of food for distribution.
“We are pleased by this overwhelming show of generosity on the part of the SWEA membership,” said Beach.
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