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Chesapeake teachers ‘stand united’

CHESAPEAKE – Teachers, parents and supporters donned purple shirts and appeared at last night’s Chesapeake school board meeting to show board members and the community that they are filled with the resolve needed to see recent contract negotiations through until the end.

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

CHESAPEAKE – Teachers, parents and supporters donned purple shirts and appeared at last night’s Chesapeake school board meeting to show board members and the community that they are filled with the resolve needed to see recent contract negotiations through until the end.

"Wearing purple was a sign of positive support," Tommie Johnson, a high school counselor and chairman of the teachers’ union crisis committee said.

Johnson, 28 year employee of the Chesapeake school system, explained that the crisis committee was established by the union to prepare the teachers for a possible strike and to serve as an informational outlet for both teachers and community members.

Johnson told board members during the audience participation part of the meeting that it seemed "unfair" that the same teachers who "have enriched the lives" of the board members’ children and family have been "unfairly compensated" by the board for their work. She asked the board to "consider the needs of those employed by you," adding that the teachers, "stand united for a speedy resolution to the contract dispute."

Teachers in the school district have worked without a contract since Aug. 1. In July, the board’s negotiator, Bob Cross of Cross Management Services in Portsmouth, brought a zero-percent increase in salaries to the table.

Cross told the teachers the school district lacked the money needed for teachers’ salaries.

Members of the public stood up for the board, too. Brenda Hawthorne, the president of the elementary school’s Parent-Teacher Association, called teachers at Chesapeake schools "dedicated" and a major influence in the lives of children. She said the PTA works for the children and she believes, from a parent’s and PTA member’s viewpoint, the teachers at Chesapeake provide a quality education for

Larry Morgan, who has been a teacher at Chesapeake for 24 years and serves as both the president of the local teachers’ union and a member of the negotiations team, said the teachers first asked for a 6-percent raise in salaries, in addition to an increase in sick days and a change in the teachers’ working hours. The work day at Chesapeake is 7.5 hours long – compared to 6:50 hours in most other school districts. The additional time adds up to about 18 additional work days above other school systems.

As far as a pay increase is concerned, Morgan said the board offered a 3 – percent counteroffer. Teachers’ in other districts, Morgan said, received a raise equaling at least 4-percent.

And the issue goes further than pay, Morgan said. He said teachers worked, at the school board’s request, on the two bond issues that passed, enabling the construction of a new high school about 12 years ago and the recent bond issue that paid for renovations to the high school and elementary school and a new junior high school. "The board has short memories," Morgan said, adding that he believes, "they have lost touch with what teachers have to deal with."

Board president Tom Curry said pay increases at other schools shouldn’t be a factor in bargaining for a pay raise. He said other districts are in different financial shapes and in the past, the Chesapeake school board has made increases in teachers’ salaries that were beyond what other area teachers received.

"We’ve made a very fair offer," Curry said, declining to comment on whether or not the school board could financially make a higher offer to the teachers.

A fact-finder from the Ohio State Employment Relations Board will conduct a hearing on Dec. 5 allowing both sides the chance at presenting evidence. The fact-finder then has seven days to render a decision at which time both the board and union will either accept or decline the fact-finder’s decision. The board and the union have ten days to review the SERB’s decision and offer either accept or decline the proposal.

Until the fact-finding session begins, the school board can make another proposal to the union, Johnson explained, but the union cannot ask for anything.

If the fact-finding process doesn’t resolve the issue between the board and teachers, then the union could give a 10-day notice to strike or the union could return to mediations.