By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Madison teachers say they have lost faith the district’s administrative leadership.
On Nov. 6, the Groveport Madison Local Education Association (teachers’ union) passed a vote of “no confidence” in Groveport Madison Superintendent Bruce Hoover by vote of 381-8.
“That’s 98 percent of the membership,” said GMLEA Vice President Zac Casperson.
According to a statement released by the GMLEA, the teachers are dissatisfied with the superintendent’s administrative practices and have doubts about the ongoing successful operation of the district.
Hoover said, “I’m disappointed in the lack of communication between the bargaining unit and the district administration and that we haven’t improved the dialogue, but I look forward to doing so.”
Casperson said the vote of no confidence is not intended to express a lack of confidence in the Groveport Madison Board of Education, the students or the community, which he said the GMLEA “vehemently supports.”
“It’s about what’s best for the community,” said Casperson.
When asked if the vote of no confidence was an indication the teachers’ union may go on strike, Casperson replied, “There’s absolutely no plans for a strike. We intend to enter contract negotiations with the school board in the spring.”
The teachers’ contract expires June 30, 2015 while Hoover’s contract is up for renewal on July 31, 2015.
In the GMLEA’s statement, the union said it remains committed to working with the board, and hopes “…that this vote of no confidence will underscore to the board of education our deep concerns about the future of our students, our district, and our community under the current leadership of Superintendent Bruce Hoover.”
Casperson said the GMLEA was “alarmed” that their public record requests revealed there were no performance evaluations of the superintendent in his personnel file.
“This represents a lack of accountability,” said Casperson.
Hoover said it was a matter of timing because the board president was reviewing the performance evaluations at the time of the GMLEA’s public records request.
“The evaluations are now back in the file,” said Hoover.
The GMLEA stated it specifically has no confidence in Hoover’s commitment to responsible fiscal management, transparency, and leadership.
Hoover questioned this criticism.
“I don’t know how the district can go from being millions of dollars in the red to being millions of dollars in the black and then be criticized for fiscal management,” said Hoover.
Regarding the union’s lack of faith in the superintendent’s fiscal management, the GMLEA cited budget cuts in recent years to eliminate educational programs (such as licensed physical education, media specialist programs, special education and foreign language) while adding administrative office staff.
Hoover said the physical education program was restructured and that there are licensed physical education teachers on staff.
“Most of the budget cuts we made were through things like food service and transportation,” said Hoover.
Hoover also disputes the GMLEA’s statement of there being four additional administrators, saying that the only change was making the part-time public relations officer a full-time position. He did say two secretaries were added – one at the receptionist desk as well as a data secretary, who he said gathers state testing data instead of having the teachers do it.
Based on information the GMLEA obtained in public records requests from the district, the teachers’ union also stated Hoover approved longevity/continuity pay (continuity pay must be paid back if the employee leaves before their contract expires) for some building administrators, including the high school principal who receives a continuity bonus of $13,729 yearly, on top of his base salary of $106,271, for the remainder of his contract. Casperson said this was done while teachers took four consecutive zero percent base salary increases, as well as two step freezes in the last four years. The agreement to change the high school principal’s contract from three to five years and also enhance his financial and benefit package was made retroactive to Aug. 1, 2013 and signed by Hoover and the principal in April 2014, just prior to the bond issue and levy on the May 2014 ballot and signed by the board president in August 2014.
“Had this information been known to us and the community, the levy (last May) would have failed,” said Casperson. “Our students would not have had busing restored and lost extracurriculars and other vital programs if the levy had failed. It is unimaginable how anyone could gamble on a quality education for all students.”
Board President Bryan Shoemaker, said “This board was fully aware of the negotiations with the high school principal. We are tired of having good principals and teachers poached from our district we had an opportunity to stop him from leaving given the important work he has done and is currently doing. We offered a tentative agreement in April to have him withdraw his name from another position and that agreement was ratified in public at our June meeting.”
Hoover said the high school principal is managing the sixth largest high school in the county and one of the most diverse high schools in the area.
“He faces a lot of challenges and has a good grasp on the job,” said Hoover. “We weren’t hiding this contract, it was all transparent.”
The GMLEA, according to information obtained in public records requests, also claims Hoover approved raises for some administrative office personnel in the 2013-14 school year, including one raise for a little more than $9,000.
The GMLEA alleged that, during a time when cuts to student programs were maintained, Hoover gave continuity bonuses, additional STRS pick-up, and annuities while the base salaries of administrators remained the same, which the GMLEA believes gives the impression of no salary increases.
Hoover said the GMLEA’s overall view on this issue is inaccurate. He did say one administrator did get a $9,000 increase because she was eligible for a step increase.
“As I recall, this administrator is the only administrator to get a raise in four years,” said Hoover.
The GMLEA further alleged Hoover at times did not follow the negotiated agreement between the school board and GMLEA, which resulted in 24 grievances filed since he was hired on Sept. 8, 2010 and that seven unresolved grievances were forwarded to arbitration compared to just one since 1997. Under the two previous superintendents, only four grievances were filed, according to the GMLEA.
“We have worked hard to hold people accountable to the bargaining agreement and board policy,” said Hoover. “The bargaining unit doesn’t always interpret the contract the same as the board’s attorney. When disagreements can’t be resolved the union generates a grievance, we determine its merit and respond. If the union is dissatisfied, it can request arbitration.”
Casperson said the GMLEA did not take the no confidence vote without due consideration.
“We feel a real responsibility to help ensure that the well-being of the students of this district and the members of their community are at the forefront when decisions are made,” said Casperson. “We worked hard with community members to ensure the students have increased opportunities with the passage of the much- needed levy. We simply don’t want that spirit of trust and cooperation to be lost.”
Hoover said he is not looking to fight with the union.
“I want to focus on improving student learning and working together,” said Hoover. “I will continue to create opportunities for the bargaining unit to improve learning. I am committed to the teachers and our district’s families.”