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Education

‘Conceptual agreement’ reached with Copley teachers union

8/28/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

The Copley-Fairlawn City Schools Board of Education and its teachers’ union reached a “conceptual agreement” during an Aug. 25 meeting with a federal mediator.

The agreement now must be approved by the union’s membership. Superintendent Brian Poe said the union would meet “soon” but a date had yet to be set.

“Both sides worked diligently to reach an agreement and there is a mutual appreciation for the work, time and willingness to dialogue,” Poe said in a written statement. “Without the many hours of effort by the teacher’s association and the board team, a conceptual agreement would not have been reached prior to the start of school [Aug. 26].”

The Board of Education met in executive session Aug. 19 for about an hour to discuss contract negotiations as the board and the district’s teachers’ union continued to work toward a new contract.

District representatives and the union, Copley Teachers Association, met three times with a federal mediator before reaching the agreement. The mediator was engaged when the two sides found themselves at an impasse after six meetings on a contract proposal presented to teachers April 23, Poe said.

The teachers’ most recent contract expired June 29, Poe said. Under Ohio law, the old contract will remain in effect until a new agreement can be reached, he said earlier.

During the public comment portion of the Aug. 19 Board of Education meeting, which opened with an hour-long executive session on contract negotiations with the teachers’ union, a district parent expressed concern about the propriety of a board member commenting on ongoing contract negotiations. Romi Brozeit, a Fairlawn resident who has served as a PTSA officer at Copley-Fairlawn Middle School and ran unsuccessfully for a Board of Education seat in 2013, asked the board if it were “appropriate behavior for a member of the board, using public or private email, to communicate to a prayer group or anyone else about ongoing contract negotiations.” Brozeit said such a communication had come to her attention and she wanted to know what the board did in cases like that.

Board President Sue Emich volunteered that she had asked a prayer group to pray for the negotiations, which seemed to be hung up on health insurance, but said she did not divulge details.

“I’m just disappointed because I don’t think even that comment should happen,” Brozeit said.

Emich later said her message to Moms in Prayer said the two sides were close, but unable to reach an agreement and that health insurance seemed to be the sticking point. She said she asked for prayers that an agreement would be reached.

Board member Kenneth Calderone, an attorney, said board members are frequently asked about the progress of ongoing contract negotiations. While board members cannot share specific confidential information used when negotiating with staff, they have a duty to let community members know, in a general way, what’s going on, he said.

“If there’s an issue that’s a hang-up, in a general sense, we can reveal that without disclosing any of the confidential information that would put us at a disadvantage in negotiations. I don’t think that’s inappropriate as long as it is in a general sense and doesn’t do anything that would prejudice the board’s position,” Calderone said.

Calderone said he would be upset if a board member revealed specific information that put the board at a disadvantage in negotiations.

Brozeit agreed Emich’s prayer request contained only a general reference to health insurance being a sticking point.

Poe said the district had 24 new student registrations in the week prior to school opening and four primary school students were shifted from the school closest to them to another primary school in the district to prevent overcrowding.

The board approved routine matters, including:

  • a $25 per semester parking fee for Copley High students;
  • bus routes for the 2014-15 school year;
  • transportation for nonresident students at no district cost;
  • in-lieu-of transportation payments;
  • resignations of certified personnel Lisa Hilliard, Katherine Jones, Jessica Sexton and Christine Sims; and
  • employment of social studies teacher Candice Chupek, language arts teacher Josh Harris and elementary teacher Ashley Fittante, and granting full-time status to elementary teachers Melissa Neuhauser and Jennifer Fitzgibbon.

The board’s next meeting is set for Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. in the Copley High School Main Conference Room, 3797 Ridgewood Road.

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