Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
By Shelley Grieshop
Teachers, board OK continuing pay freeze
2-year contract cuts most step raises
  ST. HENRY - School board members and teachers on Monday night approved a two-year contract extension that continues a salary freeze and slashes most step pay raises.
The board unanimously approved the contract, which was accepted by majority vote by the St. Henry Education Association (SHEA) on May 10.
In a statement read Monday by SHEA President Joan Albers, district teachers said the state of the economy dictated their decision to take the board's offer instead of the one-year contract originally suggested by teachers.
"This will be three years in a row for the teachers taking a 0-percent raise and with that we hope that this same consideration will be taken by all members of our school community," Albers read.
Teachers will receive no base salary increase and no vertical step index increases, which are based on years of experience. Also terminated were longevity steps that provide additional compensation for serving the district for a long period of time.
The board agreed to keep horizontal steps, which are salary increases for educational achievements such as earning a master's degree.
The teachers' contract expires June 30.
SHEA last year - prior to the expiration of a three-year contract - agreed to a one-year contract with no wage increases. In March, teachers followed the board's suggestion to put negotiations on hold until the state's budget figures were announced.
Albers told The Daily Standard that approving a two-year contract now will give SHEA and the board more time to learn what impact Senate Bill 5 may have locally.
"We need to know what's in it," she said, adding details of the bill have yet to be released.
SB 5 will restrict collective-bargaining rights, terminate automatic pay increases and set other rules of employment for public workers. The legislation becomes effective July 1, however, petitions are being circulated to delay it and put the issue before voters in November.
In the new contract, St. Henry teachers will continue to pay 5 percent of their health insurance premiums; much lower than the 15 percent mandate in SB 5.
Albers publicly thanked the board for their "willingness to work with us" on the contract. "It's tough times," she added.
Board president Bruce Miller voiced his regret over the cuts.
"We're not happy with the cuts we're making ... we're grateful for the sacrifice," he said.
One year ago, SHEA members voted to disaffiliate from the Ohio Education Association and its parent organization, the National Education Association. All contract negotiations, as well as grievances, are now resolved solely by SHEA members, their attorney, Paul Howell, and the board.
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