By Janie Southard
Seven months at the bargaining table and many rounds of proposals, counterproposals and tense moments for everyone boiled down Wednesday to a less than 30-minute special school board meeting to approve contracts with Celina school's two working unions.
The negotiated two-year contracts encompass the time period July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2006 for Local 457 of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees and Sept. 1, 2004 to Aug. 31, 2006 for the Celina Education Association.
"We are extremely gratified to have completed this lengthy and complex process. I commend the leadership of both bargaining units, the negotiating teams and board members for a settlement I believe is fair and reasonable and a benefit to all stakeholders in the district," Superintendent Fred Wiswell said following the meeting. "I know we all feel a huge sense of relief."
CEA President Phil Long, speaking for CEA's 223 certified staff, said Wednesday morning that the teachers "grudgingly" accepted the board's offer "as insulting as it was."
Negotiations between the teachers and the board went into federal mediation in June although there were few sessions during the summer, according to CEA negotiator Tim O'Donnell. CEA membership voted to forgo a salary increase for the last school year due to district budget woes. The teachers' last wage increase came in May 2002 at 3.25 percent.
CEA's last counterproposal of a 3 percent increase in year one and a 2.65 percent in-crease in year two was rejected by the board.
Wage increases effective with the new teachers' contract are 2.75 percent in year one and 2.25 percent in year two. Insurance costs to the teachers for family coverage are $25 per month for family plan in year one and $50 per month in year two.
Both union memberships had voted in September to authorize a work stoppage should that step become necessary.
Local 457, which also accepted no raise the past year, was pleased to settle the current contract "before the holidays," according to President Carol Henderson, who added that wages were still a concern.
Wage increase for Local 457 members (custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, etc.) is the same as for the teachers. Insurance premiums are slightly different.
"Full-time workers will pay 10 percent more for six months and then another 10 percent on top of that for the second year of the contract," Henderson said.
Some two- or three-hour workers such as cafeteria workers pay as much as $350 or more per month for their insurance coverage, but they realize that when they sign on.
"The whole reason many two-hours (workers) are working is for the benefits. So they know they're probably going to owe the school at the end of the month. It's their choice," Henderson said.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is for Jan. 10 at the high school lecture hall beginning at 6 p.m. with the organizational, then the budget meeting followed by the regular meeting.