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Thursday, August 15th, 2013

St. Marys BOE moves to implement contract

By Amy Kronenberger
ST. MARYS - Despite failed contract negotiations, St. Marys school board members on Wednesday approved a contract with the union representing classified employees.
During their regular meeting, board members passed a resolution implementing a new two-year contract with terms made in the board's last offer on June 5. Details of the contract were not available prior to press time today.
The union, which represents bus drivers and other non-teaching positions, agreed to an across-the-board 1 percent pay cut for the 2011-2012 school year and no increase for the 2012-2013 school year as part of its previous two-year contract.
The board and representatives of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees agreed to hire a mediator when they failed to reach a collective bargaining agreement by June 30, when the previous contract expired. The parties again failed to reach an agreement during a mediation meeting on July 15.
Approximately 75 school employees wearing union T-shirts attended Wednesday's meeting, but no one spoke against the board's action. Union members now have the option to accept the board's decision or strike.
OAPSE president Ute Schwartz said she attended the meeting and was surprised by the board's decision. She said the union has not signed off on any agreement and does not support the board's action.
"We're very disappointed with the board's decision to stop negotiation," she said this morning. "We had another offer on the table, and they didn't get back with us. We were very surprised the board made that decision."
Schwartz said she would release a statement today detailing what steps the union will take next.
Also on Wednesday, resident Corrine Corbett spoke about her view of Common Core Standards, a new set of education standards being implemented in Ohio schools. She said she believes the new standards are unconstitutional and asked the board to fight to have the measure repealed.
Corbett, a mother of three who home-schools her children, said she researched the standards and wanted to share what she learned with the board. She said experts in English and math reviewed the standards and believe they will set students back in their progress instead of better preparing them for college or the workforce.
Although state officials around the country have been led to believe it's a state initiative, the standards are national standards and take away state rights and freedoms, she said.
Education cannot be standardized across the nation, she added, suggesting the school curriculum needs to be more individualized.
"We're not engineering a workforce," she said. "We're educating human beings."
Corbett implored the board to fight the curriculum. She said education has been slowly taken out of local control for many years and if nothing is done, the states will lose their freedom.
"Local control has been a farce for a long time, but at least it's still in our state," she said. "Our freedom is at stake here, and I'm afraid I'll be telling my grandkids how this used to be a free country."
The new textbooks, she said, show evidence of marginalizing parents and being politically motivated.
She said parents and school and elected officials still have a voice. They could lose the fight, but they should try.
"You're our elected officials," she told the board. "If you won't fight, who will?"
Residents Sandy Dove, Angela Bowman and Jerry Rupert spoke to board members about re-implementing full busing.
Bowman said she understood the difficulty the board faced when making cuts after the operating levy failed in May and also believed the board has the students' best interest at heart. However she believed cutting busing to state minimum - no busing for high school students or students living within two miles of the school - was a mistake.
She presented a petition to the board with names of residents wanting full busing and she said more signatures are coming.
Superintendent Shawn Brown said earlier this week that without a new levy, reinstating full busing would not be possible.
The board on Wednesday approved the new bus routes. Transportation supervisor Dan Grothause said approximately 1,200 students will be affected by the minimum busing. Four and a half fewer routes will be offered, and approximately 372 fewer stops will be made along the routes.
Two shuttles will be provided at Skip Baughman stadium to transport students from the center of town to the middle/high school building. The shuttles will make two trips each in the morning and after school with a capacity of 200 students available.
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