October 21, 2014

Medina
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49°F

Medina teachers union: No trust in school board, Randy Stepp

MEDINA — The Medina City Teachers Association passed a resolution Thursday, saying it had no trust or confidence in the Medina Board of Education or Superintendent Randy Stepp.

The union’s main complaint is that Stepp received a total of $244,037 since 2010 as repayment for student loans, according to documents it received Thursday from the district in response to a public records request.

Bill Grenfell

The payments came from the Medina County Schools Educational Service Center. A total of $172,011.40 was paid to the U.S. Department of Education on Jan. 9, 2012, and the rest of the sum was paid to Case Western Reserve University at different times for various coursework since 2010.

“Our concern was we were not aware of the superintendent’s reimbursement,” said Gary Kovach, labor relations consultant for the Ohio Education Association, who works with the MCTA. “The excessive amount is a major concern.”

The resolution came at the union meeting where teachers learned the details of their tentative contract agreement with the board. Union president John Leatherman said votes of no confidence are unusual.

“It’s very rare when it happens,” he said.

The proposed two-year teacher contract calls for no wage increase, except for longevity “step” increases.

Also, high school teachers could teach up to six periods instead of five, allowing for the possibility of more classes to be added, Leatherman said.

Teachers’ contributions for health care would increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent, effective June 1, 2014.

Teachers will have three business days to think about the contract, followed by a vote, Leatherman said.

“We as teachers feel for the community and feel for the students,” John Semenik, a world history teacher at Medina High School, said following the meeting. “We have given many concessions over the years for Medina City Schools. We will continue,” he said.

The union’s resolution included the following list of complaints:

• At its Jan. 7 work session, the school board approved a new five-year contract for the superintendent worth $1.2 million, including an $83,000 signing bonus. The financial information provided to the teachers association by the board during negotiations was that the school district was in dire financial straits.

• The board and Stepp withheld information regarding the superintendent’s new contract from the bargaining team. This may be a violation of the collective bargaining agreement between the association and the board, sections 2.012 and 2.04.

• The board and district Treasurer Jim Hudson failed to publicly post the minutes of the Jan. 7 work session until after the union reached a tentative agreement with the board.

• The agenda provided by Hudson for the Jan. 7 work session the union received made no mention of a new five-year contract for the superintendent, a possible violation of the collective bargaining agreement, section 4.041 and Ohio’s Sunshine Law.

• The board minutes from the Jan. 7 work session provided by Hudson to the teachers association contain no action by the board approving the superintendent’s five-year contract. The union still has not received minutes from the work session approving the superintendent’s contract.

• Board member Bill Grenfell released information regarding the association’s tentative agreement with the board to the public Wednesday, in violation of collective bargaining agreement section 2.05 and possibly Ohio’s public employees collective bargaining law.

• On Wednesday, board member Susan Vlcek threatened the community with harsh consequences if the May levy doesn’t pass.

• The board called a public meeting Wednesday and failed to address the union and the Medina community’s concerns.

• The actions of the board at the work session Jan. 7 and the special board meeting Wednesday may have violated Ohio’s Sunshine Law.

Hudson said the lack of mention of the contract in the minutes sent to union members was an oversight. He said the board approved minutes at the next meeting correcting it.

“I like to think I’m a person of integrity,” he said. “I would never mislead anyone for any reason.”

Vlcek said she could not comment on the details of the union’s resolution without having more time to go over them, but said the board has utmost confidence in the district’s teachers.

“We’re on the same team always,” she said.

The board released the following statement in response to the union’s vote: “As a school district we believe in the importance and value of professional development for our entire staff. We believe it is important to be on the cutting edge of educational practices. We just learned of the actions of the teacher’s union and we are disappointed as now is the time for us to come together for our children and academic excellence.”

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.