Teachers’ union speaks out; science class nixed

(Posted March 15, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

A new environmental science program will not be part of London Middle School’s curriculum next year, following lack of a vote from the London board of education.

At the board’s March 14 meeting, Todd Boyd, president of the London Education Association (the teachers’ union), said the proposal presented a violation of the union’s contract.

Tolles Career and Technical Center in Plain City was going to provide the course and the instructor as a satellite program at London. The course would have filled a state requirement that school districts offer career-technical courses at the middle school level.

Boyd said the union contract requires that London teachers get first crack at teaching positions. He said district administrators did not bring the course to the union for negotiation.

“This work is ours to do and it belongs to us,” Boyd said in a statement he read to the board.

School board member Ed Maynor said the district is introducing several new courses and programs next school year. He said he favors expansion of learning opportunities, but said the district might be doing too much too quickly.

Maynor said he does not specifically oppose the environmental science course, which was first brought to the board for consideration at its February meeting, but said, “(It puts) administrators and teachers at odds, and that gives me cause for concern.”

Board member Matthew Congleton asked if Boyd and Superintendent Lou Kramer had met to talk about the issue.

“Several meetings were offered but those offers were not taken up,” Kramer said.

Boyd acknowledged that the meetings were offered, but said he felt they would have been informational in nature rather than involve negotiations.

“I believe it should be a negotiated item,” he said.

Kramer said that despite their difference in opinion, he and Boyd maintain a “high level of respect” for one another. Boyd said the same after the meeting.

When the proposed course came up for a board vote, it failed because no board member offered a second to the motion.

“I’m happy that the board listened to us as an association and that it appears they agree this is a job best done by London teachers,” Boyd said. “I hope this is not the end of the opportunity for the kids.”

Boyd said the science course was not a bad idea, but that more time was needed for discussion and negotiation.

About the result, Kramer said, “We are not able to take advantage of the partnership at this time, which is a shame.”

He said the district must now apply to the Ohio Department of Education for a waiver, exempting the district from the career-technical requirement for the 2017-18 school year. The district has requested and received waivers the past two years. The requirement was enacted in 2015.

Kramer said the law is essentially an unfunded mandate that requires districts to hire additional staff with unique technical education licensing that many teachers do not have.

In other meeting discussion, Kramer and Treasurer Kristine Blind told the board they are gathering data on school fundraisers. The board had expressed concern about the number of fundraisers going on at the schools, how they compete and conflict with each other in some cases, and a need to better communicate to groups the district’s fundraising policy.

At the beginning of the meeting, fifth-graders from London Elementary’s Power 380 group talked about how they strive to create a positive school culture. On “Welcome Wednesdays,” group members greet students and parents as they arrive in the morning. They hand out treats at the holidays and promote anti-bullying messages. The group’s motto is: “We better our schools to better ourselves.”

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