By Janie Southard
Monday promises to be a long day for all contract negotiating teams in the Celina school district as bargaining sessions are set for both Ohio Association of School Employees Local 457 and the Celina Education Association.
But CEA President Phil Long is expecting Monday to bring a settlement for the district's more than 200 teachers after months of working without a contract.
"That would be the best Christmas ever," Long told The Daily Standard on Thursday in his classroom at Celina Intermediate School.
Monday evening is also on the schedule for a CEA gathering at 5:30 p.m. before the regular monthly board meeting at 6 p.m.
Claiming the two sides are "not that far apart," Long said CEA will offer the board a new proposal, the first since CEA membership rejected the board's last offer two weeks ago by a vote of 184-4. Following that rejection Long said the membership felt the board was disrespectful of the negotiation process, and board spokesman Matt Gilmore said he was "disappointed" the teachers had "elevated themselves above the district and, more importantly, the kids."
Without citing any particular incident, Long says he feels both sides have said things they shouldn't have.
"It just happens in situations like this. We want to do all we can for the people we represent. But we're all good people and we'll heal," Long said.
CEA negotiators are prepared to talk as long as necessary to resolve the issues blocking settlement.
As of the last negotiating session both sides were stalemated at the following offers, as provided by an anonymous source.
The board's proposal included:
´ A 2.5 percent increase in salary in year one and the same increase in year two of a two-year contract.
´ Employee contributions to the insurance plan of $50 per month for family coverage in year one, and $75 per month in year two.
CEA's last proposal was:
´ A 3 percent salary increase in year one plus an additional step added to the incremental automatic salary increase levels.
´ A 3.5 percent increase in year two of a two-year contract plus an additional category of wage level increases, namely Masters +15.
´ Individual insurance contributions of $25 per month for family coverage in year one and insurance contributions of $35 per month for family coverage in year two.
The board met last week in executive session to discuss negotiations.