The Teacher Union’s Take on Contract Negotiations

What other questions would you like to see answered about the negotiations? Leave them in the comments.

The Brecksville-Broadview Heights Education Association and the Board of Education are currently in the midst of negotiating the union’s next contract. The contract runs out at the end of June.

A to let the district know that they have some concerns about the board’s proposal. The school board has , an uncommon choice that has made the conversation a bit more public than normal.

We emailed the crisis chair of the union, Ben Lesh, a few questions about the negotiations. His answers are as follows:

Brecksville Patch: What is the most important issue for the BEA in this round of contract negotiations?
Ben Lesh: Reaching a fair and equitable agreement for members while maintaining the caliber of education the community expects.

Patch: What most concerns the BEA about the school board's contract proposal?
Lesh: The removal of sound, research-based, and carefully crafted language in the contract that benefits students educationally and allows teachers to do their jobs effectively.

Patch: What is the biggest change from the current contract in the school board's contract proposal?
Lesh: The attempt to remove the force of language which has allowed us to excel in favor of language that would allow the district to move to minimum standards through vague, minimalistic language.

Patch: What is the biggest change from the current contract in the BEA's contract proposal?
Lesh: The addition of clarifying language that benefits students and staff, enabling the maintenance of the excellent education in the communities.

Patch: What change would the BEA most like to see in the new contract?
Lesh: We don't think that "change" is the right word. We would like to see a maintenance and clarification of the language that allows us to deliver the services and quality that our communities demand of us.

The same questions were sent to the school board, but President David Tryon said the board was unable to provide any answers.

Editor's note: According to a press release from the board president, some bargaining sessions have had to be rescheduled because a labor relations consultant for the Ohio Education Association has been reassigned.

michelle dawson May 03, 2012 at 11:30 AM
I admittedly do not know the key points of the upcoming contract negotiations. But, in this context, Lesh's responses are purposefully opaque and meaningless. Are specifics regarding the BEA's position available elsewhere?
Rachel Abbey McCafferty (Editor) May 03, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Hi Michelle, The school board has a website where they've posted the contract proposals: http://www.bbhcsd.org/negotiations/ The BEA told me they are working on a website, too, but it's not available yet.
Breck Teacher May 03, 2012 at 08:12 PM
I'll try to give you the specifics Michelle. #1 - Regarding the fair and equitable agreement. While the board talks about a shared sacrifice, they are currently trying to balance the budget soley on the backs of the teachers and the other employees of the district. #2 - BEA Concerns - First concern is regarding planning time. Currently at elementary schools, teachers recieve 315 minutes of planning time. During this time, students are in phys. ed., art, music, computer lab, or library/LRC. The current board proposal would reduce that time to 200 minutes which would result in one of two possibilities. The first would be the students would have less access to these classes. The second would be that teachers that are not certified or possibly qualified would have to teach gym, music, art, computer lab, or library/LRC to the students. In either situation, the student would recieve less. #2 Second Concern would be language regarding special education. The key phrase in the board's proposal is that special education teachers would be advisory only. This means that the board could remove special education teachers from inclusion classrooms. This would be detrimental to both special ed and regular ed students. Special ed students would lose the support of an additional teacher while regular ed students would lose contact time with the regular ed teacher while he/she dealt more with the special ed students in the same classroom.
Breck Teacher May 03, 2012 at 08:18 PM
#3 The board is changing language so that they can force unsound educational practices (see above two areas) into use. There is a rumor (that the board has denied) that they want to reduce contact time for special ed and phys ed/arts to state minimums. #4 - Previous contracts had language in them that protected sound educational practices while the board is trying to remove that language. #5 - The BEA is good with the contract language as it is currently stated in regards to best educational practices. The board wants to change it so that the district can make staffing decisions regardless of the educational outcomes for the students.
Breck Teacher May 03, 2012 at 08:21 PM
One other concern is regarding the drug/alcohol policy. The way that the board wants to rewrite that policy could cause a district employee to have to undergo treatment (or be disciplined) if he/she goes out to dinner and has a drink and is spotted by a student or a parent.
lyn May 03, 2012 at 10:09 PM
From reading Lesh's answers, it sounds like he didn't know the content of the proposals - responses vague and didn't say a thing. Like someone from my day, giving a book report who had not read the book but read a summary on the book jacket. Thanks for the specifics! Makes me wonder if there really is something the teachers can't justify for all the differences I saw between the 2. They seem to be asking for a lot more than the teacher above discussed.
michelle dawson May 04, 2012 at 11:31 AM
Thanks for the info - very helpful. With reduced state funding and an unsuccessful levy increase, I appreciate the challenges facing our schools. One last basic question - what is the superintendent's role relative to the school board and the BEA?
Breck Teacher May 13, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Michele, sorry about delay in reply. The superintendent is like the CEO of the school district. He is every employee's boss from teachers aide to the principals of the schools. Normally he is the one to conduct negotiations, but for some reason this board doesn't seem to trust him to conduct negotiations in way that will please them. They have directly taken control of negotiations and hired a new lawyer to help them do that. The only real problem I have with that the old lawyers charged about $60,000 to finish both the BOSS and BEA contracts total. This new lawyer has already charged almost that much and they are even close to finishing them. I know that he recently charged $120,000 to Wapokeneta School District and drove the negotiations almost to a strike. I've heard that he has charged Strongsville Schools close to $500,000 the last few years. That doesn't seem very fiscally responsible to me.
Breck Teacher May 13, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Sorry, I didn't check for grammar before hitting reply. Should read ... BOSS and BEA contracts in total. This nes lawyer has already charged almost that much and they aren't even close to finishing them (meaning negotiations)


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