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Published: Tuesday, 12/18/2001

Bettsville Local teachers cut tie to Ohio union

BETTSVILLE, Ohio - Teachers in Bettsville Local Schools have withdrawn from the Ohio Education Association, hoping to revive stalled contract talks on their own.

The State Employment Relations Board last week certified the teachers' 11-6 vote to pull out of the OEA.

Michelle Dantuono, president of the new Bettsville Education Association, said teachers and OEA representatives disagreed over some of the district's proposals, including a merit pay plan and incentives for teacher attendance. “We think it's going to be better,” Ms. Dantuono said. “We've already sat down and we've hashed some things out with our superintendent, so we think it's probably going to be easier.”

Bettsville teachers have been working without a contract since June, 2000.

Barbara Weber, a member of the Bettsville union's negotiating committee, said teachers were frustrated by a lack of progress and what they perceived as the OEA's failure to help.

“Since the negotiations stalled, we felt we haven't gotten any service at all, and they continued to take dues,” she said. “We felt we could do better without them.”

Carrie Smolik, a labor relations consultant with the OEA in Tiffin, said the school district's proposals divided the Bettsville teachers and triggered the decertification vote.

“There were some issues brought by the board that split the membership, such as merit pay and evaluation procedures,” Ms. Smolik said. “We were not successful in getting a tentative agreement. ... Once the petitions were in the hands of SERB, the Bettsville board refused to get together with us and bargain.”

Jane Garling, Bettsville superintendent, said the district decided to put talks on hold earlier this year to see how the vote to decertify turned out.

“There really was no point in going on,” Ms. Garling said. “I didn't get the feeling they [the teachers] were unhappy with the administration and board. I've had a struggle with the OEA, but I didn't with their own membership. We work together. We teach together.”

Ms. Smolik predicted that the teachers' decision to leave the OEA, which has 124,500 members, would reduce their bargaining power.

“I don't see them having any resources to help them at all,” Ms. Smolik said. “Twenty-one teachers in a school district? I don't know who's really going to help them with legal advice. It's just disappointing to see that they voted this way, but it's America.”



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