Educators want more of a role in forming evaluation policy

CALCUTTA – It was standing room only at Monday’s Beaver Local school board meeting.

As with other meetings during this past school year, a sea of black T-shirts worn by members of the Beaver Local Education Association greeted Superintendent Kent Polen and the board.

Sunday, the BLEA announced its intent to strike at the beginning of the school year, Aug. 26, if a contract is not reached.

One of the primary points of contention is proposed implementation of the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System, a new mandate from the state.

Seventh-grade teacher Mason Seachrist, who addressed the board during the meeting, said the BLEA’s opposition isn’t to the existence of an evaluation system, but rather to the manner in which the district is creating it.

Seachrist pointed to the passage in the Ohio Revised Code, which states the district must create and adopt the evaluation system, “in consultation with teachers employed by the board.”

Seachrist said the board’s understanding of “consultation” differs greatly from that of the BLEA. “We haven’t agreed to that or negotiated it. We were just spoken to about it,” he said.

Seachrist added that the BLEA’s consultation on the policy does not equal its consent or agreement. He said a four-person teacher committee has in fact met with the district, but asserted the four hours of meeting time since May 10 has not been enough to review all the new procedures.

The union’s other main issue with implementation of OTES regards another phrase in the law, which states the evaluation policy, “shall become operative at the expiration of any collective bargaining agreement covering teachers employed by the board that is in effect on September 29, 2011, and shall be included in any renewal or extension of such an agreement.”

Seachrist argued the inclusion of such a far-reaching policy, which they haven’t had adequate time to study, into their contracts is wrong.

Seachrist said he understood the board had to create a policy for the district to comply with state law, but disagrees with its reach into long-term contracts. “I don’t believe that policy is intended to supercede what the board and the BLEA can negotiate,” he said. He asked that the board to strike that phrase from the policy language if they voted to accept it.

When the board came to a first reading for adoption of the OTES policy, however, board members demurred. President John Campbell called for a motion on the reading, but after nearly a minute without action, it died on the floor. Included with the OTES reading were new school entrance requirements and new guidelines for promotion, academic acceleration placement and retention.

Board members preferred to not comment on the failure of the OTES reading when asked after the meeting.

“It’s a sore subject,” said Bill Croxall. “Teacher evaluation is probably a sore subject across the state.”

Croxall did say that the BLEA’s objections to certain passages did not factor into his decision, however.

Polen also chose to not comment about the ongoing impasse between the district and the BLEA, or on statements made by Seachrist, except to say that dates for future bargaining sessions are being negotiated.

“We have met, and we will continue to meet,” he said.