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Chesapeake board OKs report from state fact-finder

CHESAPEAKE - The Chesapeake Board of Education has accepted the report from a State Employment Relations Board fact-finder, but now it’s up to the teachers to decide whether or not they will agree to the terms.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

CHESAPEAKE - The Chesapeake Board of Education has accepted the report from a State Employment Relations Board fact-finder, but now it’s up to the teachers to decide whether or not they will agree to the terms.

The school board voted to accept the four recommendations from SERB fact-finder Richard Gombert at last night’s board meeting.

The district and the teachers union have been debating the contract since it expired in August. The issue went into fact-finding last week. The fact-finder reviewed the claims made by both parties at a hearing at the Grandview Inn in South Point.

Gombert addressed four issues which were in contest. The union and the school district could not come to terms on the issues of pay increase, fair share, contract length and the employee share of medical insurance cost.

The union has requested an across-the-board, 4.5-percent increase in pay, while the school board has – after retracting a zero-percent increase it originally offered – a 3 percent across-the-board increase in salary.

Gombert wrote, "the Employer (school board) may be a bit too conservative. The Association (teachers union) may be a bit too generous."

The fact-finder determined the school board should offer a 3.5-percent increase in salaries and that the amount should be effective from Aug. 1 of this year.

The fact-finder, however, voted down the union’s request for fair share. Under a fair share agreement, educators who are not members of the union would pay a fair share amount equal to union to union dues. The union holds the position that nonunion members reap the benefits of the union, so they should be required to pay into the organization. About 88-percent of the teachers belong to the union, and according to the fact-finder, since the union has a strong representation, "the status quo should be maintained" for the duration of the contract.

Gombert wrote that the term of the contract should not exceed one year, a point the teachers have supported. The board wanted a three year contract, but, the fact-finder wrote, "currently, there are serious issues in Ohio concerning school funding. The state may not be able to send increased amounts of money to the districts. The courts may order school construction projects. There could be some unfunded mandates. In short, school finances are in a state of flux. The current situation is so that a one year labor contract appears to be in the best interest of both parties.

Gombert wrote that the contract should be retroactive from Aug. 1 of this year and expire on July 31, 2002.

The fact-finder also agreed that the teachers’ share of medical insurance should remain the same, 20-percent of the cost.

The board requested a 25-percent share from the teachers but, Gombert decided that amount would result in a wage reduction for most employees and that out of 23 schools in a four county area, seven school districts pay at least 80 percent; with most, 8, school districts paying 90-percent and 5 districts picking up the full tab. Only 3 of the surveyed schools pay less than 79 percent of the medical insurance costs.

Gombert’s findings, however, are not final. The teachers union has the right to accept or reject the findings. Teachers are prepared to meet today to discuss the issue and bring it to a vote.

Board president Tom Curry said the board decided to accept the fact-finders decision because the board is "just trying to be fair" and "keep the schools open."