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11-10-04 Celina teachers edge toward strike

By Janie Southard

  Celina teachers are fast approaching a turning point in contract negotiations.

  "We don't want to take such a drastic step as filing the strike notice, but we are running out of options," Celina Education Association (CEA) President Phil Long wrote Tuesday in a statement to The Daily Standard.
  The 223 members of the CEA have been working without a contract for 10 weeks. There has been no bargaining on a new contract with the board of education since Oct. 12, when the teachers made their last proposal. Following that meeting, CEA members voted overwhelmingly to authorize an intent to strike if negotiations fail.
  Long suggested the community could help resolve the situation by calling board members to "request a fair settlement be reached soon," he said in the release.
  Board Member Tom Rable this morning said he personally has not received any calls from community members thus far.  "I have heard from teachers though, and there seems to be a lack of understanding within their association. (Those who've called) don't seem to understand the district's financial situation or the basis of our offer. I don't think that's being communicated between their negotiating team and the membership," Rable said.
  On the other hand, board member Ken Fetters said he's had many calls from district residents wanting to see negotiations concluded and conflict avoided.
  "As I also hope. I can have no part in negotiations since my daughter is a teacher at East school. In fact, I take extra steps to stay away so there is no appearance of impropriety," Fetters said, adding the state has given permission for him to vote on the final contract.
  The newspaper learned last month that the teachers are asking for a three-year contract providing a 2.75 percent increase in year one, a 3.25 percent increase in year two and a 3.5 percent increase in year three. Also, they are asking that the pay increase be retroactive to the end of the contract year (Aug. 31), the newspaper was told.
  The next bargaining session has been set by the board of education for Nov. 30.
  The board of education also is in contract negotiations with the Ohio Association of Public Employees Local 457, the classified workers' union. Members of that union, representing custodians, bus drivers and other non-teaching positions, also are working without a contract and have not met at the bargaining table since early September, when Local 457 also voted to authorize a strike if necessary.
  OAPSE President Carol Henderson, a bus driver for the district, earlier told the newspaper her group and the board are "significantly apart."
  Local 457 is in process of setting a date to continue negotiations.
  "We're like the teachers, though. We don't want to strike, but if we're pushed we'll do what we have to," Henderson said this morning.


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