BWLSD, BWEA reach agreement
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
It’s no secret that members of the Big Walnut Education Association (BWEA a.k.a. teachers) and Big Walnut Professional Support Staff Association have been collective bargaining for a new contract with the Big Walnut Local School District.
Members of the BWEA and PSSA have been visible at varsity football games; and earlier this month they gathered in a show of solidarity on Sunbury Village Square while a bargaining session was taking place inside Sunbury Town Hall.
Preceding the Monday, September 10, Big Walnut Local School District Board of Education meeting a large group of BWEA and PSSA members gathered outside Big Walnut Middle School and walked in and sat down together immediately before the meeting began.
During the public participation section of the board meeting, Big Walnut Elementary School Reading/Literacy Facilitator Shannon Mignogno stood and said the 200-plus members of the Big Walnut Education Association were disappointed in the recent negotiations.
Disappointments aside, last Friday morning during a special board meeting members of the Big Walnut board of education approved a two-year contract between the school district and the BWEA with four “Yea” votes and one abstention. Board member Verna Hines abstained because a family member would benefit from the contract.
Following the vote board president Pam Lillie thanked members of the administration’s negotiating team, especially acknowledging the efforts of board vice-president Allison Fagan, district assistant superintendent Gary Barber and district treasurer Felicia Drummey.
“Members of the Board of Education are pleased that we have reached a fair and equitable contract with the Big Walnut Education Association,” Lillie said. “This contract supports the board’s commitment to the long-term financial stability of the school district and making the 2010 levy last through 2015.”
Under the contract’s terms, members of the Big Walnut Education Association will receive a 1.5 percent per year increase in base salary for the next two years, with employees sharing more health insurance costs in the form of higher deductions plus increased co-insurance and co-payment costs.
In a formal statement released Monday by the school district administration, it was noted that members of the BWEA are moving from a zero deductible to a $200 individual and a $400 family deductible. Their total out-of-pocket maximum moves from zero to $800 for an individual and $1,600 for a family.
Insurance concessions made by the teachers will reduce the district’s Medical Mutual healthcare insurance premiums to offset 68 percent of the pay increase over the life of two-year contract.
Controversial step increases will remain unchanged.
Drummey said the health care cost concessions were a key element in offsetting the salary increases.
“On the financial front, this contract secures our financial picture for the immediate future,” Drummey said. “We’re so pleased we were able to look at healthcare concessions that supported the 1.5 percent salary increase. Without those concessions it would have been extremely difficult to make this contract work. We really appreciate the Big Walnut Education Association membership’s acknowledgment of movement to a more cost-effective insurance plan helps control the escalation of healthcare costs.”
District Superintendent Steve Mazzi said the negotiations were a long and passionate process with strong feelings on both sides of the table.
“I’m certainly pleased to have settled this contract,” Mazzi said. “At the end of negotiations I think that members of the Big Walnut Education Association and the board of education came to understand the economic times that surround us locally, statewide and nationally. In the end, the contract is fair to the Big Walnut staff and Big Walnut school community as we continue to keep our promise to make our 2010 levy last.”
In a brief emailed statement on Monday, Big Walnut Education Association Co-Presidents Erin Barr and Julie Beeker said “The Big Walnut Education Association is glad to have finally reached an amicable resolution and we wish the same to the Big Walnut Professional Support Staff who are still engaged in negotiations.”
Members of the Big Walnut Professional Support Staff Association had not reached an equitable agreement with the administration’s negotiating team by last Friday. PSSA leadership and the district’s negotiating team planned to meet this week; results of that meeting and any subsequent PSSA membership vote was not available at press time.
Agreements with two of the district’s other associations (OAPSE 696 – food service, and OAPSE 524 – bus drivers, mechanics, custodians and maintenance workers) were reached earlier this year.