At an invitation-only meeting, Wapakoneta City Schools administrators explained the school district’s financial situation and an impasse with the teacher’s union on a new contract resulting in the school board offering its “last, best and final offer.”
Approximately 50 business people and government officials attended the meeting at Wapakoneta High School ascertain information concerning what has been offered to the teachers through contract negotiations and the district’s financial situation.
Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner said the meeting was not held to try and be secretive but quite the opposite.
‘”We felt there was information that needed to be out,” Horner said. “We are prohibited of discussing negotiations in a public meeting with the union. The board is concerned but financially they are in a corner and don’t have many options.
Since the meeting was not open to the general public, William Pepple, the attorney representing the Wapakoneta City School Board of Education in the negotiations, and Horner noted all comments in the meeting were not for public record.
After the meeting, Michael Brady, who owns and operates Apex Bag, said he still thought there was room for meeting in the middle from both sides.
“Based on items both sides still have, I believe there is still room to come to an agreement,” Brady said.
However, Brady said that he believed that numbers given on the district’s finances and forecast were correct.
“They are public documents,” Brady said. “I believe the numbers are accurate.”
Tom Finkelmeier Jr., a Wapakoneta City Council councilor-at-large and a local businessman, echoed the thoughts of those in attendance concerning the board’s offer to the Wapakoneta Education Association (WEA).
“I welcomed the opportunity to come here today and here their position on the negotiations,” Finkelmeier said. “More information is always better.”
Finkelmeier said he felt that there was misinformation floating around and that he felt the meeting cleared that up for many of businessmen present.
Many in attendance commented that they had been previously unaware of the actual benefits offered to teachers, and many said they could not operate their businesses if they even tried to approach matching those types of benefits.
“In the private sector, this would be more than a reasonable offer,” Finkelmeier said. “Having experienced these types of negotiations as an elected official with the city, I did not see anything unreasonable offered by the school board.”
Local insurance salesman Jon Derryberry said it was plain for him to see that many of the teachers demands were unreasonable.
“I can see where they think they are getting the hammer, but that is only because they have had it so good compared to everybody else for so long,” Derryberry said. “If they had been paying their fair share in the first place, they would realize the offer being made by the school board is absolutely a reasonable offer. You could tell that by the reaction in here among these people when they were showed what was offered.”
Derryberry pointed out that under the current PPO plan for the teaching staff, the school pays out $19,471, while the teachers are paying $1,826, “and that is for a zero deductible,” Derryberry said.
“Most schools in the area are paying 15 percent on plans where they have a deductible,” Derryberry said.
Derryberry said he felt teacher’s spouses should be forced to take insurance if offered at their place of employment, noting that move could save the district approximately $500,000.
Brian Schlosser, owner of Schlosser Funeral Home in Wapakoneta, also felt the offer was very reasonable.
“You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip,” Schlosser said. “The way the economy is, the school is still operating in a deficit even with these cuts. Considering the way the economy is, I believe the board is being reasonable.”
Teacher’s union officials contest the school district’s numbers and financial projections they are currently submitting as evidence.
“We have had several financial analyses done by people who are primarily involved with school funding,” said Pat Johnson, a labor relations consultant with the Ohio Education Association. “The union feels the numbers presented by the board are not a reflection of what is happening in the district or what will happen in the future.”
Johnson said she could not elaborate on what the differences were and referred further financial questions to Andy Jewell.
Jewell was unable for comment prior to press time.