By CATERINA GUINTA
SULLIVAN TWP. â€” The Black River Teachers Association, which claims the school board â€œhas taken a harsh attitude in bargaining,â€ filed a pair of unfair labor practice charges this month with the State Employment Relations Board.
One charge, filed Oct. 8, centers on an assistant golf coach position.
â€œThey (the board) go ahead and they just appoint one â€¦ and weâ€™ve been trying to get one for years,â€ union President Gary Flegel said. â€œThey just went ahead and decided to hire one without even going through the proper channels.â€
The discrepancy lies in the fact the union and board havenâ€™t come to an agreement about the position, but the board of education filled the position anyway, Superintendent Janice Wyckoff said.
â€œWe realize we havenâ€™t settled the contract yet, but weâ€™ve got to look at needs,â€ Wyckoff said.
The teachers and support staff have been working without a contract since July 1.
Wyckoff explained the assistant golf position was filled by a volunteer last year and that volunteer could not continue to do so. The board had to fill the position right away or else students would be on the golf course unsupervised, she said.
â€œWe donâ€™t want students just out on the golf course unsupervised, that wouldnâ€™t be safe,â€ she said. â€œThere was a need and we filled it.â€
Other charges, filed Oct. 14, claim high school Assistant Principal Kathleen Hopkins Frazier bypassed bargaining procedures and dealt directly with staff members. Another alleges Wyckoff â€œengaged in direct dealing by discussing contract proposals with bargaining unit members and attacking the positions.â€
Wyckoff said the board hopes to have the negotiations settled before the end of the year.
â€œWe have high hopes that we will have the contracts settled in December,â€ she said. â€œWeâ€™re waiting on a counterproposal from them.â€
In a statement, union spokesman Doug Scheck said the union has submitted counterproposals in the past.
â€œThis action by the superintendent is typical of what our bargaining teams have experienced at the bargaining table,â€ Scheck said in the statement. â€œWe offer fair counterproposals in bargaining and the board and superintendent say no, and then do whatever they want.â€
The board hopes to settle this dispute before a work stoppage occurs, but right now the ball is technically in the teachers associationâ€™s court, Wyckoff said.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t make sense to play tennis by yourself,â€ she said. â€œIf thereâ€™s a work stoppage, thatâ€™s their decision.â€
Scheck countered the union hasnâ€™t seen the counterproposal from the board.
â€œIt detracts from some of the things that normally take precedent,â€ Scheck said. â€œWe need to get back to the table to get this resolved.â€
The teachers association represents about 115 certified employees such as teachers, school counselors and media specialists. The Black River Support Staff Association represents about 50 employees such as bus drivers, secretaries, classroom aides, cafeteria workers, custodians and maintenance employees, the union statement said.
Guinta may be reached at 330-721-4046 or firstname.lastname@example.org.