May 28, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Union chief says Medina teachers may OK tentative contract

MEDINA — John Leatherman, president of the Medina City Teachers Association, expects the members of his union to approve a tentative contract even though it provides no increase in wages except for “step” hikes for years of experience and additional college course credits.

“If I were to place a wager,” he said, “I think we will vote to accept the tentative agreement.”

Randy Stepp

Leatherman earlier had said he was concerned about the chances of passage because of the controversy over the new contract for Superintendent Randy Stepp.

The five-year contract, which included an $83,000 bonus and annual compensation of at least $186,000 in wages, allowance and other fringe benefits, was approved by the school board Jan. 7 — 1½ years before expiration of Stepp’s existing contract.

But union officials said they did not receive a copy of the pact, which was passed at a work session and listed in the minutes of the board meeting as an “amendment to the superintendent’s administrative contract.”

Leatherman said he learned of the pact from a telephone tip about four hours after the tentative agreement with the teachers union representatives was reached Feb. 21.

Intense negative public reaction, including creation of a “Medina City Schools Outrage” Facebook page, followed publication of the details of Stepp’s contact last Tuesday in The Gazette.

Opposition increased after the union membership on Thursday voted “no confidence in the board,” citing both Stepp’s contract and the fact that the district had paid $244,037 for college courses for Stepp, who has a doctorate from Ashland College and a master’s of business administration from Case Western Reserve.

On Friday, at a heated four-hour public forum, Stepp apologized and said he would give back the $83,000 bonus and forgo as much as $36,000 in raises.

Leatherman acknowledged some teachers were still angry, but he remained optimistic about the outcome of the vote on the tentative agreement, scheduled for Wednesday.

“If you listen to the teachers, we’re not happy with what’s happened in some of the things that were kept from us, but the kids and the community are still in the teachers’ hearts.”

Leatherman said the paper ballots are expected to be counted immediately and the results announced that evening.

If the contract is voted down, Leatherman said the union was willing to return to the bargaining table.

In addition to the raise freeze, the tentative agreement would increase the number of periods teachers can be required to teach to six. Now they have to teach no more than five periods.

Under the new contract, teachers’ contributions for health care would increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent, effective June 1, 2014.

The contract also specifies that the board “shall not give preference to any member based on seniority, except when making a decision between members who have had comparable evaluations” when deciding where to make reductions in staff.

Under the new contract, the length of a maximum student day will go from six hours and fifty-five minutes to seven hours and twenty minutes, allowing for more classes.

“The idea is to give the students at the high school more choices and maybe less chances of being closed out,” he said.

If the contract is approved, it will go to the board of education for a vote at its March 18 meeting, which will be 6 p.m. in the Distance Learning Lab (across from the gym) at Medina High School, 777 E. Union St.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or