By Jeff Gallatin
North Olmsted’s school board approved a new four-year contract with the teachers union in a special meeting Wednesday, a contract, which all parties said, aids the district financially for several years.
“It puts us in a better position for several years,” interim Superintendent Terry Krivak said afterward.
“We’re glad to have negotiated an agreement which should be a financial plus and should put the district in a good position,” Rich Bauer, head of the teachers’ union, said.
In the agreement, which runs from August 2012 to July 2015, teachers will receive raises of 1.95 percent in each of the first three years of the agreement, with the fourth year seeing a hike of 1.75 percent.
In addition, members of the union will increase their contributions to their health care costs from the current 7 percent. The contribution will increase to 10 percent in the first year of the contract, 12 percent in the second and 15 percent the third and fourth years.
“Dealing with health care costs is a major issue for districts now,” Krivak said.
Krivak said members of the union “overwhelmingly” approved the agreement in a Wednesday afternoon vote.
Bauer said the union realizes health care and overall costs must be contained for district to be able to provide good educations for their students.
“We’re aware of the economy and how it’s affecting people,” he said. “This is an agreement which we worked on together which should work for North Olmsted.”
This is the first agreement to be negotiated since the district’s narrow operating levy win in 2010. Both administrators and teachers agreed to a pay freeze that year to help pass that levy.
School district Treasurer Robert Matson said the new agreement exceeds projections in the five-year forecast projections memo he sent to school officials in July.
In the memo, he said if salary increases were reduced from 2.5 percent to 2 percent, the district could save $3.1 million over the next four years. In addition, he said if employee medical contributions were increased 2.5 percent each year to reach 15 percent, the district could save an additional $1.3 million over the same four-year period.
“We actually did quite well,” he said, saying if current projections hold true and the savings are indeed realized, the need for a new operating levy should be delayed for at least two years.
School board members also were pleased.
Board President Tom Herbster said the agreement came under unusual circumstances.
“We had to replace a major player while this was going on, and we were still able to get a good result, which is very commendable,” Herbster said, referring to Krivak becoming interim superintendent and replacing Cheryl Dubsky, who retired at the end of July.
Herbster noted Vice President Joann Dicarlo, who was unable to attend, also sent word, saying she supports the agreement.
Terry Groden thanked the teachers and others involved.
“I’m happy to say that this is a win-win for the North Olmsted Education Association and the board of education,” he said. “They reached this agreement in a productive, forward-thinking way.”
He also said it’s a contrast from his first year on the board, when the district passed an operating levy by a narrow margin, saying the agreement is a win for the students.
“Tranquility in the district provides our students with the best possible environment for learning,” he said. “And that’s the bottom line here.”
John Lasko abstained during the formal vote, noting his wife’s salary is covered by the agreement. He refrained from comment until after the vote, but praised the agreement after the 3-0-1 margin was finalized.
“It puts us in an advantageous position as a district,” he said. “We see news all the time from Columbus and Washington about how actions in the two capitals are affecting our funding and how we’ll have to do more. But this agreement puts us in a good position at our level and puts us in a strong position.”
Krivak said other portions of the agreement set up a 12-person committee, which will have six representatives each from the administration and teachers set up a new teacher evaluation system. He cited current bills in the Ohio legislature and noted that at least 50 percent of the evaluation should stem from student performance.