Negotiations continuing between BW school district, two unions
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
It’s no secret that members of the Big Walnut Education Association (a.k.a. teachers) and Big Walnut Professional Support Staff Association have been collective bargaining for new contracts with the Big Walnut Local School District.
While the two associations are negotiating with the school district separately, they use the same Ohio Education Association Labor Relations Consultant and, during recent negotiations, have exhibited publicly expressed solidarity. Members of the BWEA and PSSA were visible at the Friday, September 7, Big Walnut varsity football game; and they gathered on Sunbury Village Square last week while a bargaining session was taking place inside Sunbury Town Hall.
Preceding Monday evening’s 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 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.
“We know it’s important to attain and retain quality staff,” Mignogno said. “The members of our organizations go above and beyond. We participated in the levy campaigns, we initiated pay freezes, we love our jobs.”
Three district residents – Scott Erick, Chris Podraza and Ryan Dunlap – stood to express concerns about the district’s ability to keep its five-year levy promise if raises and benefit concessions have a negative impact on the district’s budget.
Erick said Big Walnut is a source of pride for him and his children; that wherever he goes, people know about the Big Walnut school district.
“It’s important that we look to the future,” Erick said. “I want to say that we did what we said we would do (kept the five-year levy promise), and continue the Big Walnut pride we all share.”
Podraza said her family has lived in the Big Walnut district for seven years, and her children have never had a bad teacher.
“Flyers handed out at a Friday night football game indicated they want a fair contract, but we don’t know what’s being negotiated,” Podraza said. “I don’t want another levy. A lot of people in this community expect that levy to last.”
Dunlap, who has three children attending school in the district, said he applauded the unity he was seeing during contract negotiations.
“But I want you to be careful you don’t send the wrong message,” Dunlap said. “Times are tougher now than they were two years ago. I know you’re scared, but more cuts are coming. You have to understand the public doesn’t have a voice, and taxpayers are hurting too. I’m rooting for you guys, but I don’t want anybody to get RIF’d.”
Following the meeting Dunlap said it’s common knowledge that more cuts are coming to education; that Governor Kasich’s goal is to build a state budget surplus and that’s going to impact everybody that depends on state funding. He added that less revenue coming in from income tax exacerbates Kasich’s budget problems.
Board president Pam Lillie made a simple statement and avoided further comment.
“The board of education is in negotiations,” Lillie said. “The board and administration will continue to negotiate in good faith and keep our levy promise. I’m confident we will come to an agreement.”
In her Financial Summary, district treasurer Felicia Drummey said Big Walnut received $8.2 million in August and had $2.3 million in expenses. Drummey said the positive cash flow was the result of a $7.7 million property tax disbursement for the first half of the year.
“The district has a $12.9 million cash balance.” Drummey said. “That’s typical of the natural revenue cycle in the early years of a levy cycle. That money must be saved for the fourth and fifth years of the levy when expenses will outpace revenue.”
Drummey also reported that a 1.2-mil levy from 2005 has expired, producing an anticipated $259,000 decline in property tax income, along with an additional unanticipated revenue decline due to lower real estate valuations.
‘We also has $286,000 more than last August in expenses, mostly in the form of salaries and benefits,” Drummey said. “Salaries for August 2012 were higher due to the restoration of programs and the rehiring of RIF’d staff.”
Drummey said Purchase Services expenses were up $125,000, due to an invoice paid to the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio. In the past, Drummey said, that money was deducted directly from the state foundation disbursement, but the district has elected to receive the funds and make its own payments to the ESCCO.
District Assistant Superintendent Gary Barber said the September Transportation Report is the best he has seen since he came to the district.
“In our 109 square miles we bus 2,500 kids every day,” Barber said. “In the first 13 days we’ve covered 31,362 miles, and with a new building and the new three-tier busing system our drivers have spent the least amount of downtime they’ve ever had.”
Barber said there have been some issues due to road closures, but most buses are on time.
“We thank parents, teachers and staff for their patience in helping us to make sure that students are safely on their buses,” Barber said.
Barber also said the administration is examining the district’s bullying policy, especially cyber bullying, because of potential consequences for school districts.
“There will be staff training, and we’re going to partner with our students to help deliver the message,” Barber said. “We’re going to make this as positive as we can because we have a great school culture at Big Walnut, and we want to make sure it stays that way.”
District superintendent Steve Mazzi said a new Athletic Survey will be available in the middle school and high school offices, and online.
“We want to make certain, like any business, that we’re listening to our customers,” Mazzi said. ”Parents will fill out the survey and at the end of the year the athletic directors and coaches will discuss how we did as a district and with individual athletic programs.”
Board member Verna Hines introduced 2012–13 Big Walnut High School Student Representative on the Board of Education, Nicole Meyer.
“Nicole will be a spokesperson for 3,000 students, an important job,” Hines said. “Other students will be able to express themselves through her.”
Meyer is a senior planning on attending High Point University in North Carolina to study photography. She has served on Student Council for three years, is active in the Drama Club, and served as a member of this year’s Eagles First Flight.
In other business, board members held a first reading of NEOLA Additions/Revisions.
• Board members approved the Member Service Agreement between Big Walnut Local School District and Tri-Rivers Educational Computer Association (TRECA).
• Board members adopted the Ohio Principal Evaluation System (OPES).
• Board members approved Verna Hines as the Big Walnut Intermediate School representative from the board.
• Board members approved a 90-day probationary contract for the following classified employees for the 2012–13 school year: Chris Holly, Special Needs Assistant, Big Walnut High School, step 3; Angela Snyder, Clerical Assistant (.25), Hylen Souders Elementary, step 3; Mike Hamilton, Special Needs Assistant (bus aide), step 3; Sheri Woerner, 2 hour Food Service Worker, Big Walnut Middle School, step 0.
• Board members approved the following athletic supplemental contracts for the 2012–13 school year:
Football: Anthony Zarcone, Volunteer
Facility Manager: Chris Holly, 2/3 High School
Volleyball: Matt Schoonover, Assistant
Cross Country: Melissa Pecci, Middle School, Volunteer
Cheerleading: Nikki Pennington, Middle School, Volunteer
• Board members approved the following Extended Service contracts for the 2012–13 school year:
EXTENDED DAYS: Tammi Jordan, Guidance Counselor, Big Walnut High School 15 days; Molly Fortune, Guidance Counselor, Big Walnut High School 15 days; Nancy McCracken-Bennett, Guidance Counselor, Big Walnut High School 15 days.
• Board members approved the following certified staff as Home Instruction Tutor, at an hourly rate of $18 for the 2012–13 school year: Josh Dalton.
• Board members approved the following donations: School supplies donated to General Rosecrans Elementary, donation made by Dollar General.
The next regularly scheduled Big Walnut Local School District Board of Education meeting will be held at 7 p.m., Monday, October 8, in the Big Walnut Middle School Library.