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The Daily



12-17-03: Celina board, union settle suit

Out-of-court decision deals with bus driver


Celina City Schools board of education and its classified staff union have settled amicably the civil lawsuit filed by the board in September over the bus driver who failed a random drug test.
“We accomplished what the board wanted without going through (Mercer County) Common Pleas Court,” district Superintendent Fred Wiswell told board members at Monday’s meeting.
The lawsuit followed a decision by board members to fire Michael Bullock, a Head Start bus driver who failed a random drug test and admitted to smoking marijuana the weekend before he drove bus.
Driver fired
After the firing, the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local No. 457, the union which represents classified workers such as bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other non-teaching staff, brought in an arbitrator who determined the board did not have just cause to fire Bullock because he was not using drugs in the workplace.
Arbitrator Janet Goulet’s decision on June 7 was based primarily on Local 457’s contract language, which specifies termination for “using drugs in the workplace.” She also ordered the board reinstate Bullock, give him back pay and to wipe clean his disciplinary record regarding the positive test.
The crux of the board’s lawsuit was that the arbitrator’s decision would keep the board from terminating or disciplining any employee in the future who fails a drug test.
Final agreement
In the final settlement, both the board and OAPSE agree Goulet’s decision is limited to Bullock alone and has no binding effect on the board for future purposes. Also agreed is that Bullock has no right to reinstatement or back pay.
Bullock tendered his written resignation and full waiver to reinstatement and back pay in October.
Union President Carol Henderson, who also is a bus driver, said settling the case “brings closure and let’s us move forward.”
That matter resolved, board members moved on to more pressing matters: the new levy in the March election and the budget reduction plan that must be filed with the Ohio Department of Education by Jan. 31.
Tax valuations
The board reviewed recent information from Mercer County Auditor Mark Giesige certifying the current tax valuation of the district at $335,313,135. Thus, to avoid an operating deficit in the amount of $2.65 million per year for three years, the March levy must be 7.9 mills.
The district as well as hundreds of others in Ohio will be back at the polls in March attempting to generate new dollars to keep their systems in business as state and federal cuts force schools to scramble.
“It’s a sad scenario for public schools in Ohio,” Wiswell commented.
The board will work quickly to organize a levy campaign taking the appeal for more money to the community.
Meanwhile, Wiswell and his administrative staff are putting together the budget reduction plans that are required by the state in January.
“We are doing all we can to be ready to present at the Jan. 12 meeting. Our reduction format will probably be similar to last January’s where we presented Plan A, reductions we must put in place no matter the levy results, and Plan B, what has to happen if the March levy fails,” Wiswell said.
As she conducted her last meeting, board President Cindy Piper received a plaque and certificate from the district recognizing her leadership and dedication during the past four years.
Neither Piper nor Joe Bath sought re-election to the board.
The reorganization meeting on Jan. 12 will produce board officers for the coming year as well as see the swearing in of new board members Amy Hoyng and Tom Rable.
Prior to Monday’s business, Wiswell praised the district music department for the excellence of their Christmas performances.
Vocalist Marissa Zacharias, accompanied by choral director and pianist Dave Vantilburg, performed Christmas selections for board members and those gathered for the meeting.


Phone: (419)586-2371,   Fax: (419)586-6271
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