New deal finalized

A new contract became official between Wapakoneta Education Association teachers and the Wapakoneta City Schools Board of Education when board members approved the deal during Tuesday’s meeting.

“This is a difficult procedure for both sides,” Superintendent Keith Horner said after the board members voted 5-0 to approve the contract and rescind a “last, best and final” offer implemented by the board on Jan. 1. “Certainly we appreciate how hard the teachers work and what they do for the kids. We need to move forward serving the kids and community and I’m confident we will do that.”

During Tuesday’s meeting in the large group room at Wapakoneta High School, nearly half of the WEA’s membership dressed in red to show solidarity and sat silently throughout the meeting waiting to hear the outcome of a resolution to accept a new contract agreed upon during a meeting with a federal mediator in Dayton overseeing the case.

Speaking on behalf of the WEA after the meeting, Wapakoneta Middle School teacher and WEA Crisis Chair Todd Crow thanked the community for its overwhelming support during this difficult time.

“We strongly believe that without the community’s support, the board would not have returned to the bargaining table and we would not have reached this settlement,” Crow said after the meeting. “We feel for our students and the community that they were forced to endure this difficult situation.

“The money that the school district spent on purchased services could have been better spent on classroom supplies and student needs,” he said.

Crow said the WEA would be watching closely to see if board members and the administrators follow through and work collaboratively with them to address financial situations.

“The WEA sees the board’s agreement to reinstate the joint insurance committee as a positive step,” Crow said. “By working together, we hope to further research information that the WEA has offered concerning insurance plans that can meet the needs of the employees while containing the cost to both the teachers and the Wapakoneta City Schools.”

The two sides started negotiations more than nine months ago with teachers working under an expired contract since July.

The 155 members of the WEA voted in December to give their negotiating team the authority to issue a 10-day strike notice. Teachers set up a strike headquarters and demonstrated signs of working to rule in early January, while school district administrators began making plans to hire substitutes and keep schools open should the teachers strike.

Horner said it had been their position all along that they were under the jurisdiction of the federal mediator and they did not want to jeopardize anything by holding discussions to try and reach an agreement without him.

The superintendent also addressed one of the contractual issues teachers were most vocally concerned about, whether or not salary steps could be implemented again in the future.

“The board was certainly concerned about what expenses would look like into the future, but the fact that a salary schedule with steps was always included in the contract demonstrates that the board never anticipated steps being eliminated forever, but we are glad we clarified that particular point with the teachers,” Horner said.

He said board members realized the steps were necessary to remain competitive but the language was clarified to the satisfaction of both sides.

As the only member of the administration or school board speaking about the issue during the meeting, Wapakoneta City Schools board member Pat Gibson addressed the teachers saying he wanted to take the opportunity to thank them for being there.

As a member of the school district’s negotiating team, Gibson apologized publicly for anything done throughout the process to offend the teachers or their profession.

“You’re the ones in the trenches,” Gibson said. “When school is in session you spend more time with our kids than we do. Some of you taught my children and some still do.

“I hope we can move forward and work together, a little more than every three years would be nice,” he said.


Points of the agreed upon contract compared to last, best and final offer

• Step language was clarified to the satisfaction of both parties.

• Salaries for the first year are a step plus zero percent on the base. The second and third years are step freezes plus zero percent on the base. There is no change from the last, best and final offer.

• Non-renewal language places new employees on a three-year probationary period. There is no change from the last, best and final offer.

• Employees are responsible for 13 percent of insurance costs in 2012 with the board paying 87 percent effective Jan. 1. In year two, employees are to pay 14 percent of insurance costs with the board paying 86 percent effective Jan. 1, 2013. In year three, employees are to pay 15 percent of insurance costs with the board paying 85 percent effective Jan. 1, 2014. The percentage stayed the same, but the dates of implementation went from a school year to a calendar year. Also, it was agreed upon that health insurance coverage will not change for the duration of the contract without mutual agreement of both parties.

• In lieu payments for married couples will cease to exist after the expiration of this contract. However, during the first year of the contract, married couples employed by the district will receive $1,100. During the second year they are to receive $550 and in the third year they are to receive no incentive. It is part of a phase out compared to an immediate elimination as in the last, best and final offer.

• Vision insurance is available on a voluntary basis. The board will contribute $100 toward that premium. The last, best and final offer includes a $100 reimbursement for vision expenses. The accepted contract offers a $100 contribution to the vision insurance premium.


Prior to the implementation of the last, best and final offer, the sides agreed on:

• Teachers are e-mailed an electronic copy of the contract and able to print a copy on district printers.

• Teachers employed by the district and assigned to special education can request a reassignment to a regular education teaching position after five years and they can be reassigned back to special education after five years in a regular education classroom. The exception is during a Reduction in Force (RIF) The amount previously was three years.

• Any professional staff member who had their full assignment involuntarily transferred to a different building shall be granted two paid work release days to move to a different building.

• Multiple changes were made to employment practices with language cleaned up on both sides to make it clearer to follow for both teachers and administrators.

• Professional personnel file practices were modified to comply with the current law.

• Payroll procedures went from 24 pays to 26 pays starting with the 2012-2013 school year.

• Three-hour delays can be used with greater flexibility.

• Policy handbooks are only available on the district’s website.

• Academic freedom was moved to a more appropriate spot in the contract.

• Teaching contracts were updated to comply with state law.

• A new evaluation tool developed jointly by an administrative/teacher committee is to become the new default teacher evaluation tool.