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WEA issues plea to talk: Teachers share thoughts, experiences with board

January 16, 2012

Wapakoneta Education Association (WEA) members re-enforced their position on contract negotiations Saturday during a public forum with Wapakoneta City School Board of Education members.

Board members officially conducted two meetings, the first being the district’s annual re-organizational meeting. The second meeting was used for discussing employment of personnel and negotiations, all discussed in executive session. However, the public comment section of each meeting  highlighted the morning’s talks.

WEA members, wearing buttons supporting their cause with phrases such as “I work here, I live here, I work here,” and “I don’t want to strike, but I will,” made up all but a handful of attendees at the meeting of approximately 115 people.

WEA members reiterated the point that they feel the board is offering incomplete or misinformation to the public to support administrations side of the standoff.

WEA Crisis Chair and Wapakoneta Middle School teacher Todd Crow continued the plea for the school board to return to the negotiating table.

“We know collective bargaining works, even in these difficult economic times,” Crow said. “WEA has worked hard to identify cost savings to  the district, but bargaining requires mutual respect and sense of a shared mission, including shared sacrifices. We want to return our focus to what we do best, teaching the students of the Wapakoneta City Schools.”

A retired teacher from the district also shared her thoughts on the negotiations.

“The main problem is that the public is getting just enough information to be outraged,” Priscilla Elshire said.

Elshire discussed wording in the final contract offer made by the school board to the teachers. Many teachers fear that the wording in the contract eliminating step-increases over the length of the two-year contract could be dictated to mean that step increases were eliminated permanently.

“In other words, the steps are gone forever,” Elshire said.

Elshire argued that the contract read like a mini-Senate Bill 5, something she said voters had rejected.

She also revealed her sentiments about Bill Pepple, the school district’s representing attorney.

“I believe you are all reasonable men,” Elshire said. “I don’t believe the same about Mr. Pepple.”

After her comment about Pepple, another woman who could not be identified left the meeting.

A Wapakoneta Middle School teacher said she came to the district thinking she could make a difference and felt that the district had given up on the teachers.

“I came to Wapakoneta not because I wanted a job…,” the woman said. “I believed I could make a difference here. Why has the school board given up on the teachers. The greatest impact is going to be felt by our future teachers.”

Wapakoneta High School teacher Carrie Becker felt that teachers are being painted negatively in the midst of the negotiations.

“There are people out there who believe people teach so they can get off in the summers…,” Becker said. “I haven’t met a teacher who is not consumed by her career choice. Common sense, courtesy and cooperation are losing the race. The WEA and the BOE should be working towards a common goal.”

Amy Crow, whose husband is a Wapakoneta Middle School teacher in the district, said the negotiations are putting unneeded stress on the students.

She addressed the board with buttons of several students on the front of her shirt. She said she spoke with several of the students.

She also felt that athletics is being given a higher priority.

“The new turf on the football field got more coverage and support than the teachers,” Crow said.

She said children have concerns about the school remaining open if the teachers strike. She shared one student who told her that she felt embarrassed to graduate from Wapakoneta High School because of the attention and another who feared being able to play sports if they had to go to another school.

Francene Slife, who has children that teach in the district, said board members need to get back to the negotiating table.

“All I hear is name calling,” Slife said. “I want to see some reasoning here. Whatever the issues are …, let’s just get together guys.”

Others commented that the issue is quickly dividing the community and that documents recently made available online were full of discrepancy.

School Board President Willie Sammetinger acknowledged that it is a rocky period for the district but that the district would ultimately prevail.

“We appreciate your comments,” Sammetinger told the large contingent. “We know this is a difficult time. Somehow we will get through it. The sun will still come up tomorrow like it has the last 3,000 years.”

After the meeting, Sammetinger said he could not address the negotiations due to legal restraints, but school board members are hopeful of a resolution.

“At some point there will be a resolution,” Sammetinger said. “At this point, I don’t know what that is.”

Sammetinger said that board members are hearing a lot from community members.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there,” Sammetinger said. “A lot of ‘he said she said,’ however, the information we are getting has been overwhelmingly in support of the board. Don’t budge seems to be the theme.”

Sammetinger estimated that 90 to 95 percent of the comments coming in from the public are in support of the board’s position.

The teacher’s union gave their negotiating team the authority to issue a 10-day strike notice in December if they saw fit.

To date, no notice has yet been given to the board.

School administrators have acknowledged that they currently are putting a plan in place to hire substitutes to ensure classes continue should the union decide to strike.

Comments

Thanks

January 30, 2012 by footballsportster (not verified), 2 years 39 weeks ago
Comment: 159

Thank you for your honest response. There still is a big concern and you mentioned it. It looks to me like a train wreck. The money is simply not there from the state. Either the tax payers are going to have to dig in their pockets or the teachers are going to have to take a cut in the near future.

Real World

January 18, 2012 by Dawg (not verified), 2 years 40 weeks ago
Comment: 144

It is unfortunate that the teachers could have there salaries frozen,but the people that are paying for the schools have been living this way for the last 4 years. We have come out of one of the worst economies in years and NOW the teachers want to strike. Not a good choice in my mind. I would like to call for the citizens of Wapakoneta to stand up and let the teachers know how you feel because they are certainly letting us know how they feel. I am less concerned about the teachers striking and more concerned about them bringing there issues into our childrens classrooms the exact class rooms that we the taxpayers pay for every week. I say let the teachers strike and bring in replacments and see how they do we might be supprised. I do want to call everyone in the city to write in and voice your opinion tell them how you feel it is your childrens future we ar talking about.

WEA Issue

January 17, 2012 by luckyyou100 (not verified), 2 years 40 weeks ago
Comment: 140

Any person in their right mind will not stand for what the board is doing. If you were told that you would be making the same amount of money for the rest of the time you were at your job, would you stand for it? I don't think so. That is what the board is trying to make the teachers take. Please be more educated before you rip the teachers for what they are doing. You would be doing the same thing if you were them.

Also realize that the board is putting out a lot of false information or half truths to get the public on their side. A lot of what was posted on the school's website was not correct. If you want to know what is going on; ask an educator before you make your final opinion.

wea issues

January 18, 2012 by cville (not verified), 2 years 40 weeks ago
Comment: 142

I worked for a place for more than 15 years, for the first nine years had pay raises and after that I was topped out at what I could make. There needs to be a cap on the money they make.

Do your research

January 19, 2012 by baseballfan (not verified), 2 years 40 weeks ago
Comment: 146

There absolutely is a cap on the salary teachers make. It is usually at around 20 years, so teachers who work for the last 15 years of their career do NOT get a step increase. This is public information, so do some research before you make comments.

Curious...

January 21, 2012 by footballsportster (not verified), 2 years 40 weeks ago
Comment: 150

So a teacher gets an automatic raise every year for 20 years (Step Raise). A teacher also gets (Most of the time) a contractual raise every year. If this is true it's a very good deal from the teachers standpoint. Maybe not so much from the taxpayers point of view.

Really?

January 20, 2012 by footballsportster (not verified), 2 years 40 weeks ago
Comment: 149

Let me get this straight. For 20 years a teacher gets a raise every year whether they want it or not. They also get a contractual raise every year on top of this? Is this a wise use of taxpayer money?

Not Necessarily...

January 24, 2012 by baseballfan (not verified), 2 years 39 weeks ago
Comment: 155

Teacher raises are negotiated every time a contract comes up and are applied to the BASE salary. Depending on the economy and the individual district's financial situation, a raise may or may not be given. A lot of teachers have taken little or no raise in the past several years because of the economy and poor funding to schools. But to put it into perspective, when I began teaching 16 years ago (1996)the base pay was $23,000. It is now $32,500, which represents an increase of 41.3% over that time. According to autos.msn.com, the MSRP of a new Honda Accord in 1996 was $15,100. The base price of a new Accord today is $22,000, which represents an increase of 45.7% over the same time period. This is just one example, but it shows that the increase in a teacher's base pay is comparable to the inflation of the same time period. I think it is fair to say that, compared to other professionals who have 4 (or 7, in my case) years of post secondary education and a minimum of a Bachelor's degree, teacher's are underpaid. I'm not saying that teacher's are paid unfairly, just not as well as many other professionals. In order to be competitive with other professions, the base salary has to increase over the course of time, otherwise the most qualified people would choose other professions and education would suffer.

As far as the steps go, again it is based on individual districts and their salary schedules. Where I work we get a step increase for the first 14 years (steps 0-13). We level off for 3 years until we get our next step at 17 years (step 16--there are no steps 14 or 15). We again level off until year 21 (step 20-- there are no steps 17, 18, or 19). At step 20 we "max out" and remain at that salary until we retire (15 years minimum). We COULD increase somewhat if a raise is granted to the base salary. Again, we haven't seen a raise, or much of one, in the past couple of contracts. When we have been given a raise it has been less than 1%.

I'm not complaining. Like most other educators, I did NOT go into teaching to make a ton of money. I wanted then, as I still do today, to pass my knowlege onto kids and, hopefully, make a difference in their lives. The benefits that were there were more appealing than the salary and were meant as some sort of compensation for the lesser pay than other professions. Unfortunately those benefits are disappearing with time.

I really hope that no one considers paying teachers to be a waste of taxpayer's dollars. Keep in mind that the state government keeps lowering the amount of money it funds to schools (all while raising standards--go figure) which, in turn, places more of the burden on the taxpayers within the school district. Plus, the retirement requirement for teacher's has gone from 30 years of service to 35 years, meaning teacher's will be earning the "maximum" salary for an additional 5 years. Doesn't make much sense to me....

Reality

January 17, 2012 by WapakFan (not verified), 2 years 41 weeks ago
Comment: 139

I have seen the arguments back and forth. I have read the contract suggestions on the wapak.org website and have not missed an article in regards to the issue. From all of the information at hand I believe the board needs to stand their ground and not give in. The teachers of Wapakoneta have been living the high life for a long period of time. The days of spectacular benefits are long gone for most everyone. Wapak has done a great job in managing their money to allow the teachers to keep those benefits as long as they could. The money is now gone and therefore the benefits should be as well. Looking at the contract suggestions the board offers on insurance is still really nice health insurance coverage. Give a call to surrounding school districts and they would agree as well. It is unreasonable for every negotiated part of insurance for the WEA to ask for 100% coverage and $0 deductibles. Negotiating means you will have to give up something. As far as the step increases go. Welcome to 2012. Most schools have had step freezes over the past couple of years. Sure beats having a pay cut which most other people in the community have had to take.

My last comment is in regards to the stress placed on the students. Of course they feel stress. When the teachers are wearing their buttons into the classroom, packing up their personal belongings, and discussing the issues at hand in the classroom, then who could blame them for being stressed and concerned.

I say go ahead and strike. That will show how much you really care about the students of Wapakoneta. It's just unfortunate that a union drags in those of the teachers who don't agree in striking.

Pay freeze/insurance

January 19, 2012 by baseballfan (not verified), 2 years 40 weeks ago
Comment: 147

I think you need to go back and read the article and do some more research on this topic. I work in a neighboring school system and we have taken a pay/step freeze over the next 2 years and have also seen our insurance costs go up--most districts have--and the Wapak teachers HAVE AGREED TO TAKE A FREEZE OVER THE NEXT 3 YEARS AND PAY MORE FOR THEIR INSURANCE. The difference is that every other district that I've heard of (including mine) calls for a temporary freeze. In other words, in 2 years we'll get to renegotiate restoring our steps. I have READ the contract implemented to the Wapak teachers and the wording is very vague and confusing and can be interpreted to mean that the step freeze at Wapak is PERMANENT--meaning what they are making now will be what they make FOREVER!!! Who in their right mind would settle for that? What this whole issue comes down to is contractual language. If the board (and their highly-overpaid lawyer) would just fix the langauge to be cut and dry and obviously mean EXACTY what they CLAIM (to the public) that it means, this issue would be OVER! Get on the board members and put pressure on them to fix the language!!!

reality

January 18, 2012 by cville (not verified), 2 years 40 weeks ago
Comment: 143

AMEN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AGREE WITH YOU 100% WITH WAPAKFAN

The bottom line

January 17, 2012 by Big Tim (not verified), 2 years 41 weeks ago
Comment: 138

Here's the bottom line - Has the Wapakoneta School system ever had a problem filling its teacher positions? If not then the pay and benefits must be good enough. Unfortunately Wapakoneta doesn't have a robust Catholic or charter school alternative so we really can't tell if the consumer is happy. They have nowhere else to go.

There can be no power greater

January 17, 2012 by EddieC (not verified), 2 years 41 weeks ago
Comment: 136

Let's face it. School is a pretty awful place to be. It represents our very first encounter with bureaucracy. Before we learn how to solve a simple equation, we're taught to sit still and comply with the rules, no matter how ridiculous. To be quite honest, for the majority of us in the younger generations, high school was likely to be the first institution to which we would consign the label "fascist." For the majority of our lives, each of us spent our days in an environment which was never satisfied with our very best. No matter how we performed, someone always asked for more. I grew up in Wapakoneta, and I feel like I'm describing the situation pretty well. I also think I'm describing a popular experience - an experience of elementary to high school to which nearly everyone in the country can identify.

Please know that I am restraining myself from nitpicking the glaring syntactic errors in this article like "re-enforce" and "re-organizational," but instead I'd like to focus on the issue at hand. Why would anyone want to return to these institutions after they've escaped? Luckily someone does. Bear in mind that Wapakoneta's teachers left school, and then finally decided that they had gained something far more sophisticated than a diploma. They pursued higher education and then came back in the attempt to share that passion with the youth of our community. I would argue that our teachers draw a greater sense of purpose than they do a paycheck, and for some reason they come back year after year.

Meanwhile, they educate our students and challenge them to become better individuals, to challenge themselves, and to strive for the intangible, like self-realization and empowerment, and to work toward life-long goals like higher means and financial independence. Our schools are our future; there is no more direct a line as that.

Willie Sammetinger's apparently dismissive and patronizing tone leads me to believe that the teacher's pleas have fallen upon deaf ears. Wapakoneta, these teacher's need your support. They rely on you, just as you rely on them year in and year out. Don't replace one of your child's best assets with an opportunistic stranger, who likely has no intention of being a part of your community. Demand that your school board work with the teachers to resolve its issues, not against them. A solid education certainly doesn't ensure one's ability to lead a happy, productive life, but there is no doubt that it makes it considerably more likely.

plea talk

January 16, 2012 by cville (not verified), 2 years 41 weeks ago
Comment: 133

If Senate Bill 5 was not rejected we would not be in this problem. That's what's wrong with this great country. The teachers need to fall into the group like the firefighters and law enforcement folks where they cannot strike

teachers

January 16, 2012 by dander123 (not verified), 2 years 41 weeks ago
Comment: 131

Really get in the real world... People out here have not had a raise for years .. and insurance that's a joke we're lucky if it will pay something.. But still hundreds come out of our pockets... We are all living paycheck to paycheck and these teachers have the nerve to threaten to strike... Go ahead hope they replace all of you...Yes we are in a depression...

Teachers are not asking for more money

January 16, 2012 by mother1 (not verified), 2 years 41 weeks ago
Comment: 135

I was directed to this website: www.WeaWantstoTalk.org. It shows what the board is asking of the teachers and now I understand where they are coming from. The teachers are not asking for more money and they are taking a pay freeze and paying more insurance. Wish more of the community realized this.

Amazing!

January 19, 2012 by baseballfan (not verified), 2 years 40 weeks ago
Comment: 148

It's amazing how many people do not realize this! The board has been misleading people all along in an attempt to get their support and turn them from the teachers. All the WEA wants is the language straightened out so it's clear that the freeze is temporary and not permanent. I've read the contract and NO ONE would willingly sign it the way it's worded!

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