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Published: Sunday, 9/22/2013 - Updated: 10 months ago

TOLEDO PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

Board OKs partial pay restoration

1% raises in ’14, ’15; lifting freeze on service steps set

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

In what was seen by some as a better-than-nothing offer, Toledo Public Schools teachers Saturday approved a fact finder’s report that calls for a partial restoration of recent wage cuts.

The board of education, meeting in special session Saturday, also accepted the report in a 5-0 vote.

“It’s not a raise, but it is returning a small portion of what the staff gave up the last three years when sacrifices were made for our children and our schools because of declining school income,” board President Brenda Hill said.

Kevin Dalton, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, said after balloting at the Stranahan Theater on Saturday that the union’s paraprofessionals and substitute teachers approved the report unanimously, while about 90 percent of full-time teachers voted to OK it.

The three-year pact gives teachers, paraprofessionals, and substitutes 1 percent raises on Jan. 1, 2014, and Jan. 1, 2015.

Fact finder Nels E. Nelson also recommended the district lift the freeze that had been in place for “step increases,” which are granted to teachers based on years of service and advanced education.

Under the plan, one step would be restored in 2014 and another step restored in 2015.

The agreement also calls for a wage and benefits reopener in the third year.

“As I described it to our membership, it wasn’t a great agreement, but it was a realistic agreement,” Mr. Dalton said.

“The bargaining team felt that it was an agreement that provided the best services for the students while recognizing teacher experience and educational attainment.”

The bargaining team had recommended the district’s approximately 1,820 teachers, 330 paraprofessionals, and 205 substitute teachers approve the offer.

“Coming into an agreement like that, after three years of concessions and financial hardships, it’s a vote and a decision that the membership had to take seriously and give consideration,” Mr. Dalton said.

In 2011, teachers took a 2.5 percent pay cut, assumed a larger share of their health-care costs, and saw step increases frozen and supplemental contracts reduced. That was on the heels of a 1 percent pay cut in 2010.

Frank Szollosi, a 28-year teacher with the district, said he “reluctantly” voted yes on the fact-finder report.

“Are we happy? No. Is it realistic for teachers to be considered second-class citizens? No,” said Mr. Szollosi, an American history and world studies teacher at Waite High School.

“The economic realities of what’s going on in Toledo, the state of Ohio, and the country as a whole dictates that our negotiators probably got as much as they could under these circumstances.”

Janice Arkebauer, a teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr., Academy for Boys who is working this year as a data coordinator, said she believes everyone is doing the best they can with the economic times.

There were “a lot of emotions” at the union meeting, she said, but “you have to look at Toledo — what is happening here in Toledo.

“You see what is happening in some of the other cities, but we have to remember we’re Toledo and we need to know what is happening here,” Mrs. Arkebauer said.

A first-year Toledo teacher with a bachelor’s degree now is paid $34,086 a year, while a typical teacher with a master’s degree and 15 years experience gets $56,122.

School board members said they saw the tentative agreement as a step forward.

TPS Treasurer Matt Cleland did not have the projected cost of the teachers’ raises, but said that if all three bargaining units — teachers, administrators, and the union representing bus drivers, food-service workers, secretaries, and custodians — agree to the same economic package, it will cost the district $1.66 million more in fiscal 2014 and $4.99 million in fiscal 2015.

While the teachers’ union had sought more substantial raises and restoration of concessions, the fact finder wrote that the board had “a very limited ability to reduce the gap between salaries in Toledo” and the eight largest school districts in Ohio.

“The teachers may have expected to close the gap between their salaries and the teachers in the other Ohio 8 districts much faster than is being recommended,” he wrote, “but any greater increases in salary costs would very likely result in program cuts and force the board to lay off teachers.”

Board member Larry Sykes asked Mr. Cleland to provide the board with the cost of negotiations and the fact finder.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.



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