Board’s final offer

After months of negotiations failing to result in an agreement, Wapakoneta City Schools Board of Education members approved a resolution declaring its intent to implement its final offer to teachers beginning Jan. 1.
In a separate matter, the Wapakoneta school board and the Wapakoneta Classified Association (WCA), which also had been at an impasse previously and working under an expired contract since July, reached a tentative contract agreement after the special board meeting Thursday night. Details of the contract are to be available when the WCA and the Board of Education officially ratify the agreement during a future meeting.
All five school board members voted in favor of the contract settlement resolution as they were
surrounded by several rows of teachers and their families which spilled out into the hallways of the board office. Teachers in the district have been working under an expired contract since July.
“Our preferred option is to reach an agreement, but after a dozen bargaining sessions since April and with no end in sight, we have to move the district forward,” Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner said after a special meeting Thursday night to approve the matter.
The resolution, which implements the board’s last offer to teachers and which starts the beginning of the year, was approved in seven minutes with no discussion from
either side.
An impasse between the two groups was declared in August, and a federal mediator who was brought in several times including this week to help with negotiations, to help with negotiations failed to help make progress.
“Under all of the circumstances, it is clear that the parties have reached an ultimate impasse in their negotiations, as good faith negotiations towards reaching a successor collective bargaining agreement have been exhausted and there is no realistic possibility that continued negotiations would be fruitful,” according to the resolution approved Thursday by school board members.
Officials with the teachers’ union, the Wapakoneta Education Association (WEA), stated in a prepared news release that they were disappointed but not surprised by the board’s approval of a formal resolution.
“Such action had been indicated by the Board of Education when the board unilaterally declared an end to bargaining,” said Pat Johnson, a labor relations consultant for the Ohio Education Association. “Both parties in the past have been able to come to a resolution with contract talks — this action is unprecedented.”
Johnson said the WEA is addressing its options and remedies as a result of the board’s action.
“As far as the Wapakoneta Education Association is concerned, the bargaining process has not ended, and the Wapakoneta Education Association is ready and willing to go back to the bargaining table,” Johnson said.
The WEA would not comment further.
The school board filed an unfair labor practice charge against the WEA in November for bad faith bargaining, claiming that the association had cancelled nearly a quarter of all its scheduled bargaining sessions and had continually rotated different teachers in and out of the bargaining process.
“The board on Nov. 29 gave the association a last, best and final contract offer,” Horner said. “The board’s resolution declares intention to implement the offer on Jan. 1 unilaterally, unless the association earlier agrees to the terms of the offer.”
He said key issues in bargaining have been salary and insurance.
The board’s last proposal is for a three-year contract with no base raises for teacher salaries and no automatic increases based on teacher longevity in the second and third years. Teachers also would be required to pay more into the cost of health insurance provided by the board.
“The financial facts are the financial facts,” Horner said. “The district had $1.2 million of deficit spending for the fiscal year which ended on June 30. In the current fiscal year, we are projected to spend $1.6 million more than our annual revenue.”
He said the district is spending down cash reserves to fund operations and will need to find more cost savings even after implementation of the board’s offer.
“In this economy, sacrifice is required by all to maintain our core programs for students,” Horner said. “What we have been asking in negotiations is not out of line with trends around the state affecting all school districts.”