Lutz, Burcham submit proposals to IEA

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 18, 2000

High school coaches Bob Lutz and Mike Burcham presented salary and job change proposals to the Ironton Education Association last week, after school board members urged that move.

Tuesday, April 18, 2000

High school coaches Bob Lutz and Mike Burcham presented salary and job change proposals to the Ironton Education Association last week, after school board members urged that move.

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Monday night, union officials told a crowd of residents gathered at the Ironton Board of Education meeting that the association will consider the proposals, but action is unlikely until the Ohio Education Association reports back on the board’s financial health.

The coaches want to retire from teaching and retain coaching positions with a salary increase in those supplemental contracts.

Both district students and residents have rallied in overwhelming support for the plan in recent weeks, saying the coaches deserve what they’re asking for. School board members have said they support the idea as well, but told the coaches they had to take the request to the union first.

"We all are in agreement that we need to move forward but we need to do it in the proper process," board president Rayetta Waldo said.

The union is willing to consider the issue, but it needs to know how much money the board has for salary requests, union president Mary Philabaun said at Monday’s meeting.

"We don’t deal until we have financials," Mrs. Philabaun said. "We don’t know how much they (the board) can afford to give any member of the teaching staff.

"Would someone get everything they’re asking for? Probably not, but we will take a look at it."

It won’t happen overnight but the union will consider Lutz’s and Burcham’s request once the OEA report is back, she said.

Also, the next round of union talks concerning the entire teaching staff’s full, two-year contracts can begin as early as May 1, Mrs. Philabaun said, implying the coaches’ proposal could be considered at that time.

Although school board members argue that the coaches must follow a hiring process that begins with the union, residents like John Wolfe contend that the board can proceed with the issue itself.

"I realize you haven’t acted so far but all the board has to do is contact the IEA and request a negotiation of the supplemental contract," said Wolfe, an Ironton attorney and Tiger Clan member.

"That’s true of any union contract," he said.

The board has said it would rehire the coaches once they resign and apply to the posted position, which is a process mandated by state law. But, if the board attempts a negotiation, it could be an unfair labor practice, board members said.

Wolfe said his research into case law shows that either party to the contract can request a renegotiation.

"If I were on the school board still, I would make a motion to apply to the Ironton Education Association to renegotiate those positions," he said.

The coaches have proven themselves as the right people for the job, earning top state honors for their teams and moving the high school athletic budget from $6,000 in the hole when they started to $160,000 in the budget now, Wolfe said.

"The ball is in the board’s court, not the union’s," he said.

The board disagreed but several residents, including board member Gary Neal, encouraged everyone, including the board, to work together on the issue.

"I really think this all should have been settled two months ago," Neal said. "I worked for the union all my life and I know how the union feels. They should know what they want and what we want and the coaches want and sit down and talk about it.

"Let’s all get together and work this out."

Resident Bill Ball called the coaches’ request a reasonable one that they have earned and said the board has the power to make it happen.

"Our football program is known as one of the best – let’s keep it that way," he said.

Mrs. Waldo said that the board has explained repeatedly that the process begins with the coaches making the request through the IEA.

That has taken place, but Mrs. Philabaun would not disclose the salary amounts in the coaches’ proposals.

"As president of the association and upon conferring with the negotiating committee, we feel the request is excessive in light of the fact we don’t have a financial document (from the board)," she said.

Answering audience remarks that the coaches deserve it after so long at the job, Mrs. Philabaun said no Ironton teacher gets paid on a merit pay system.

Some teachers take work home, some don’t, and some devote many more hours to their jobs than others, she said.

"I’m not going tell you these men don’t deserve more than they are getting paid," she added. "I think a lot of us are worth more than we’re getting paid."

After some applause, several residents said there was room for change and that the union has the responsibility to make that change.

Mrs. Philabaun said the coaches want "quite a bit more than they’re getting paid" and the association needs the board’s financials before dealing, because the coaching salaries are not paid from athletic funds, but taken out of the general fund that funds all teaching salaries.

Residents complained that if the coaches’ proposals were not agreed to, then they might leave Ironton and said that if the board has the money, why not give it?

Mrs. Philabaun said that if holders of other supplemental contracts want to retire and come back at higher salary levels, what then?

The financial reports are needed before giving a 100 percent raise, she said.

"Just remember in your thinking who fills the stands every Friday night and how many kids will be leaving Ironton if the coaches are not here," resident Scott Crabtree said.

Resident Phil Staton said everyone needs to look at the "moral issue" involved with coaches that are legendary in Ironton.

"The right thing is neither party hangs them out to dry," he said.