July 25, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Union files charges


Staff Intern

SULLIVAN TWP. — The Black River Teachers Association, which claims the school board “has taken a harsh attitude in bargaining,” 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.

“They (the board) go ahead and they just appoint one … and we’ve been trying to get one for years,” union President Gary Flegel said. “They just went ahead and decided to hire one without even going through the proper channels.”

The discrepancy lies in the fact the union and board haven’t come to an agreement about the position, but the board of education filled the position anyway, Superintendent Janice Wyckoff said.

“We realize we haven’t settled the contract yet, but we’ve got to look at needs,” 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.

“We don’t want students just out on the golf course unsupervised, that wouldn’t be safe,” she said. “There was a need and we filled it.”

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 “engaged in direct dealing by discussing contract proposals with bargaining unit members and attacking the positions.”

Wyckoff said the board hopes to have the negotiations settled before the end of the year.

“We have high hopes that we will have the contracts settled in December,” she said. “We’re waiting on a counterproposal from them.”

In a statement, union spokesman Doug Scheck said the union has submitted counterproposals in the past.

“This action by the superintendent is typical of what our bargaining teams have experienced at the bargaining table,” Scheck said in the statement. “We offer fair counterproposals in bargaining and the board and superintendent say no, and then do whatever they want.”

The board hopes to settle this dispute before a work stoppage occurs, but right now the ball is technically in the teachers association’s court, Wyckoff said.

“It doesn’t make sense to play tennis by yourself,” she said. “If there’s a work stoppage, that’s their decision.”

Scheck countered the union hasn’t seen the counterproposal from the board.

“It detracts from some of the things that normally take precedent,” Scheck said. “We need to get back to the table to get this resolved.”

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 cguinta@ohio.net.