By Kevin Kelley
Jan. 1 is not only the day the nation falls over the so-called “fiscal cliff.” It’s also the day the teachers of the Westlake City Schools will be without a contract.
Superintendent Dan Keenan said Board of Education members and administrators met with leaders of the teachers union three times already and have an additional meeting scheduled for mid-December.
The board held its first meeting with the district’s classified (non-teaching) employees union earlier this month. Their contract also expires on Dec. 31. The custom in the district has been to initiate negotiations with the teachers union first, Keenan said.
Keenan declined to discuss specifics of the negotiations. He said the district seeks a contract that enables it to keep the best staff but is also reflective of the current economic climate and deserving community support.
“We need to be mindful of both to get a good contract,” Keenan said. “It’s my belief that all sides understand that.”
The fiscal state of the school district and aspects of its labor contracts were big topics in the November 2011 school board election, in which incumbents Tom Mays and Carol Winter were re-elected. Tony Falcone, who ran with Mays and Winter, was also elected.
Mays and Winter said teacher salaries should remain competitive relative to other communities. “The (next) contract will look different because our economy is different,” Winter said at a September 2011 candidate forum.
Members of the opposing ticket said they would somehow balance taxpayer and student interests. One candidate, Robert Bodi, was critical of the district’s decision to lay off teachers last year, but also took issue with step increases and cost of living increases written in teachers union contracts.
If New Year’s Day arrives and a contract has not been reached with one or both unions, the parties will likely agree to extend the current contract, Keenan said. A new contract agreed to at a later date can impose terms retroactively to the start of 2013.