COVENTRY TWP. A step increase set to be in included in Coventry teachers' paycheck begining in late August never showed up, according to the teachers' union.
That has prompted the union to file Unfair Labor Practice action against the state's Planning and Supervision Commission, which is overseeing the district while it is in fiscal emergency.
Mike Staiger, Coventry Education Association president and a Coventry Middle School teacher, said the teachers wanted to roll the current contract over with no base increases.
"We understand that the commission is here," Staiger said. "We wanted to roll it over for a year and see what happens next year."
The teachers' contract was first put in place in 2013, but the decision to roll over the contract was approved by the school board in April. Coventry teachers were set to negotiate this year, but decided not to.
"We aren’t asking for anything more than we bargained for," Staiger said.
While the board has approved the contract, the Planning and Supervision Commission has not. Since the district is in fiscal emergency, everything approved by the Coventry Board of Education must be approved by the state commission. According to Staiger, the commission hasn’t acted - nor has it discussed - the contract.
During the Oct. 3 commission meeting, Staiger along with many other teachers in attendance thought the issue would be discussed, but it wasn’t.
The lack of action on the contract may be one of the reasons several Coventry Commission members are questioning the accountability of Chairperson Kim Richard.
During the commission meeting, commission member Sean Fremon requested to put a motion on the agenda for a vote of no confidence in Richard. Member Holly Miller seconded the motion.
The motion appeared to come as a surprise to Richard.
Fremon and Miller, however, were the only two commission members to support the motion as Richard, Quentin Potter and Laura McGraw voted against adding it to the agenda.
Miller said at the conclusion of the meeting she is still having issues trusting Richard. Miller questioned the communication between Richard and the school board, asking if there was a checklist provided to the Board of Education about what it needed to provide the commission for each meeting.
Richard said there has been communication with the board and administration each month either through email or a phone about the agenda prior to the commission meeting. She said the current communication works relatively well.
Miller asked to be involved in future calls, emails and communication between Richard and the Board of Education and administration. Richard agreed that Miller could be a part of those conversations.
Board President Robert Wohlgamuth and Coventry Treasurer Matthew Muccio didn’t fully agree with Richard. They each said while there has been some communication the last couple months, it hasn't been monthly.
Muccio asked the Commission Secretary Bob Foss about holding a meeting to discuss the agenda prior to the commission meeting this month. Foss, however, told Muccio there didn’t need to be a meeting.
Following the meeting, Miller could not be reached for comment and McGraw said she had no comment.
Fremon said after the meeting, the motion shouldn’t have come as a surprise as he has already voiced his concerns previously to Richard. He said his concerns come with informational flow and communication with everyone involved.
Unfair Labor Practice
Coventry Middle School Teacher Deb Willis, who has been teaching for 27 years and attending the meeting, said she doesn’t understand how the commission can just ignore the Unfair Labor Practice.
Commission Chairperson Kim Richard did not comment after the meeting on the teacher contract issue and referred all question to Ohio Department of Education Associate Director for Media Relations Brittany Halpin.
"As you know, Coventry’s financial recovery plan was finalized and approved by the state superintendent in May," Halpin said. "With this approval, both the district and the commission must adhere to it. The district negotiated a contract with the Coventry Education Association that increases spending and isn’t consistent with the approved financial recovery plan. A complaint was filed by the Coventry Education Association with Ohio’s State Employment Relations Board, and while that complaint is pending, we have no further comment at this time."
Staiger, however, believes the pay issue falls on inaction of the commission.
"Our school board and administration has been very supportive of our teachers," Staiger said.
For now, teachers are being paid the same as they were last year. Staiger said the increase associated with the step increase is "small" and the teachers "just want to work to reach a solution."
Since the filing of the Unfair Labor Practice, Staiger said he has not heard any updates, adding that Coventry teachers are the lowest paid in Summit County.
In other business Oct. 3, the commission:
- Heard from Susan Darby who made comments about the board and administration not following the Financial Recovery Plan put in place by the Commission. She read the following statement on behalf of Coventry Schools Taxpayers Accountability Coalition (CSTAC):
"The charges recently filed by the Coventry Teachers Association appear to be the result of district leadership ignoring proper fiscal recovery procedures set by the Commission," the statement read. "This is the latest in a long list of acts of noncompliance recorded by CSTAC over the past two years. CSTAC believes the superintendent and treasurer are agents of the school board being changed. In light of this, and their consistent noncompliance with the commission’s orders over the past two years, CSTAC calls for the commission to remove the superintendent and treasurer immediately."
- Approved personnel items, contracts, purchase orders over $5,000, the fiscal year 2018 supplemental appropriations and Certificate of Estimated Resources.
- Scheduled the next commission meeting for 4 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Lakeview Building.