Changes made this week to contracts offered to Wapakoneta City Schools teachers by the Wapakoneta City Schools Board of Education negotiating team were enough for the two sides to reach an agreement.
Wapakoneta Education Associaiton (WEA) members voted Thursday night to accept a conceptual agreement reached between the teachers union and school board representatives on Wednesday during a three-hour meeting in Dayton with Steve Anderson, the federal mediator overseeing the case.
“The WEA members marginally passed the resolution to accept the agreement,” said Wapakoneta Middle School teacher Todd Crow, who is serving as spokesman for the WEA. “We are cautiously optimistic that the board will do the same at its meeting on Tuesday. Until that vote, the WEA will maintain its strike headquarters and will continue all our planned activities.
“The conceptual agreement corrects some of the most damaging aspects of the implemented contract,” he said, “but we will be watching closely to see if the board truly wants to work cooperatively with the WEA and this community to address the financial concerns of our district.”
Neither side would release details of the three-year contract until members of the Board of Education vote on the contract during a regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. at Wapakoneta High School.
“Obviously we’re happy to hear it was ratified by the teachers,” Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner told the Wapakoneta Daily News this morning. “This was a very challenging process for all the parties involved, including the students, teachers, board members, administrators and the community.
“We appreciate all the teachers do and are looking forward to moving forward and serving our kids and community,” he said. “We would like to thank all the parties involved for their patience and understanding during these very difficult financial times.”
The superintendent said he fully expected Board of Education members to formally pass a resolution Tuesday approving the contract.
On behalf of the teachers, Crow thanked the community for it’s overwhelming support.
“Without their involvement, we believe the board would not have come back to the table to resolve the outstanding issues,” Crow said.
On Jan. 1, the Wapakoneta Board of Education implemented its last, best and final offer with the WEA, with whom they had been negotiating since April, with the 155 teachers in the union working under an expired contract since July.
The contract implemented this month froze teachers’ base salaries and offered no automatic increases based on teacher education level or longevity. It also did not provide for future step increases and required teachers to pay more for the cost of health insurance.
School administrators have said the contract was necessary because the school district lost $1.2 million in the school year ending June 30 and is expected to lose another $1.6 million at the end of this school year.
In December, members of the WEA voted to give their negotiating team the authority to issue a 10-day strike notice if they saw fit.
No notice was ever given, despite teachers working to rule, working the minimum hours required of them, and setting up strike headquarters, where teachers gathered last weekends to paint signs to garner community support.