By Janie Southard
All that remains is for the Celina City Schools board of education to formally act this afternoon on the two-year contracts accepted Tuesday evening by both working unions .
Celina teachers voted to accept the board's contract offer, but only reluctantly and only after seven months of offers and counteroffers.
"It is a hollow victory. We accepted in order to avoid a strike and to do what is best for the students and community. And it was clear the board would bargain no further," Celina Education Association President Phil Long said of the 163-28 vote to accept the board's contract proposal. "There is no joyous celebration."
However, the end of the long bargaining process sparked upbeat comments from Matt Gilmore, board vice president and spokesman for negotiations.
"We are profoundly happy and gratified. I would echo Phil's comments from last week that there have been things said that should not have been said. I sincerely hope we can heal the wounds. "But, you know, this was never about the quality or worth of our teachers and classified staff. We have extremely qualified teachers and support staff. They are tops anywhere and are good people," Gilmore told The Daily Standard this morning.
Classified employees (bus drivers, custodians, etc.) represented by Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 457 ratified their contract Tuesday night by a vote of 81-4.
Local 457 President Carol Henderson said her membership is pleased, even though there still are some concerns, money being primary.
"But we are very happy to settle before the holidays," Henderson said this morning.
Gilmore said the process has been frustrating in many ways, but mainly because the board could not give the unions "what they felt they need and what we have always acknowledged that they're worth."
The newspaper has learned the two-year contract both unions have approved calls for a 2.75 percent salary increase in contract year one, which began July 1, and a 2.25 percent salary increase for next school year.
PPO insurance in year one is $25 per month for family coverage and $50 per month in year two for the same coverage.
"It is our (the board's) goal to act on both contracts this afternoon," said district Superintendent Fred Wiswell of the special board meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. today in the conference room at the Education Complex.
CEA chief's view
The following statement addressing the new two-year contract accepted by the teachers Tuesday was received via e-mail this morning from elementary teacher Phil Long, president of the Celina Education Association.
"The 223 members of the Celina Education Association voted to put education and the children of Celina before their own self-interest by accepting the board of education's final offer, as insulting as it was.
"The vote by a roomful of CEA members came as a result of extensive discussion, which centered around the damage a strike would do to both the community and the students that we have worked so hard to educate.
"CEA members decided that the $40,000 difference between the board's last, final offer and the association's counterproposal was not enough to overcome the hurt a strike would cause the school community.
"Clearly, by refusing to continue to bargain, the board was forcing CEA to go on strike. The difference of $40,000 in a general fund of over $24,000,000 was so small that the board surely could have found a way to compromise in order to reach an amicable agreement with CEA.
"The public needs to remember who was willing to keep a strike from occurring in Celina when board members are up for re-election and when new members are elected. "CEA members are dedicated to improving education by continuing to watch board finances and expenses to see if the claims of 'not having enough money' are real and true.
"CEA members will continue to wear the CEA black shirt as a grim reminder of how little the board cared about its employees during this negotiations process."