Teachers contract approved

COLUMBIANA – Columbiana teachers can now ditch their old contract, an agreement has been reached.

The teachers began the new school year working under the former two-year contract that expired June 30 since contract negotiations lasted longer than usual.

That contract included a wage freeze and step increase in the second year. The new three-year contract includes a 1.9 percent base increase and step increases, and changes to their health care.

Their insurance deductible increased from $100 for single and $200 family to $250 single and $500 family, Treasurer Lori Posey said.

Their premium contributions remain at 10 percent, which Posey said is higher than most employees at other schools.

Superintendent Don Mook said changes to the Ohio Teaching Evaluation System was one of the main reasons negotiations continued into the school year.

Under the new system teachers will be evaluated by their performance through classroom observations and student academic growth. Both are weighted at 50 percent.

Teachers in the union expressed their concern about the system to the Board of Education in July, claiming it was not fair and put too much emphasis on state testing.

Teachers in districts in other areas of the county voiced similar concerns with the system, including Beaver Local, whose union members in June 10 authorized their negotiating team to issue a strike notice if necessary. However, that notice was never issued and teachers agreed to a new contract in early September.

“I would say the Ohio Teacher Evaluation put a monkey wrench in a lot of negotiations in places outside of Columbiana,” Mook said.

He thanked the Columbiana Education Association (CEA) for continuing to work on the old contract.

“In good faith, both the board and the CEA had extended beyond the expiration of the previous contract to being the school year and continued to negotiate beyond mediation which averted a work stoppage and an adverse affect on students and the community,” he said.

The union ratified the contract on Monday by a 50-2 vote. Not all members were present. The board approved the contract unanimously during the Tuesday meeting.

“I appreciate the folks that were involved in the negotiating process … I think we were careful and cautious on both ends to move forward,” Mook said.

He also called the new contract “fair and equitable.”

The union was not present at the board meeting.