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Grievance filed by teachers likely going to arbitration

April 13, 2012
Salem News

EAST LIVERPOOL - A grievance filed by teachers in the city school district will most likely be going to arbitration after the school board voted 4-1 this week against ratifying a memorandum of understanding that may have ended the grievance.

The memorandum had been negotiated between the teachers' union and Superintendent James Herring, who recommended its ratification; however, all but board member Richard Wolf opposed his recommendation.

Wolf said he agreed with other board members' opposition but said he fully expects the grievance to be won by teachers in arbitration and did not want to see additional legal fees spent fighting a lost cause.

At issue is a $25 per hour stipend paid to teachers who complete professional development, which is recognized in their current contract, approved last year for three years.

Herring had questioned some of the activities teachers claimed as professional development and did not recommend payment, resulting in the grievance being filed and, ultimately, legal fees for fighting it.

In an effort to bring the matter to a close, Herring had negotiated the memorandum of understanding, which he said, essentially, agreed to go along with the stipends if teachers dropped the grievance.

When the matter came up on this week's agenda, Wolf voiced his concern, saying he was "greatly disturbed" by what teachers are being paid for as professional development and saying it is the result of past administrations "wielding to the whims of the teachers."

Board President Janice Martin a former teacher and union representative in the district said she would not support the measure "because we're paying under past practice."

She said, as an example, a teacher working in a concession stand has been submitted for payment as professional development, and questioned how this benefited the education of children.

Martin said another teacher had submitted duplicate hours and was paid, noting, "If this was done in the past and overlooked, that doesn't prevent us from making it right from this day forward."

Although Wolf reiterated his concern that defeating the motion will result in additional legal fees for arbitration, board member Scott Dieringer said, "I'd rather spend the money to fight it than to continue on. Sometimes, you have to stand up and say enough is enough. We're giving away free money for anything they can get away with."

Again, Wolf said he agreed with his colleagues but said rather than fight it now, he suggested they "make it a hit the bricks issue," saying, "Let (teachers) hit the bricks and see how sympathetic the public is to them."

Herring said after the meeting the issue could not be renegotiated until the new contract is up in 2015.



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