The Clay Community Classroom Teachers' Association (CCCTA) has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the Clay Community School Board of Trustees because of comments made by the board at a recent meeting.
"We were shocked by the public statements at the March 16 meeting," CCCTA President Russ True said during an interview with The Brazil Times Thursday morning.
At the school board meeting, Board President Steve Grigsby said the "public update" was being provided in response to public concern and questions regarding the current state of contract negotiations, and was in compliance with guidelines set forth by the Indiana State School Board Association.
Grigsby went on to outline details of a $1 million contract settlement package proposed by the teachers' negotiation team during a February bargaining session and the board's response to the settlement package.
"We did present the written offer to the board. I told them it was a package deal that had to be accepted as a whole, not to pick out one part and ignore others," True said. "They had issues with all the topics and proceeded to pick it apart. Nothing was settled at that meeting."
For the teachers' association, the board's handling of the public update was the proverbial last straw. Both sides agreed at the February meeting that further bargaining was to remain private, which True said was a welcome relief.
"I was glad when they wanted to stop bargaining in public, it wasn't helping anything be resolved," he said.
The major issue between the two groups is a seven-period day, but board concerns about the solidarity of teachers is also an important issue they wanted to tackle quickly.
Shortly after the February meeting, the teachers association distributed a "private survey" to teachers at the secondary level.
Teachers at Clay City and Northview high schools were given the opportunity to voluntarily sign the document stating they were unwilling to assume the additional responsibilities of teaching a class or participating in a duty period as proposed by the board without fair compensation.
A signature on the document was also considered a show of support for the 10-member bargaining team while questioning the good faith of the board while negotiating.
True presented the documents with 82 signatures, around a third of the teachers' association's membership and almost all of the secondary level teaching staff, to the board just prior to the March meeting.
"We often poll our members to make sure we're on track with the wants and desires of our membership," he said.
Another issue for the teachers was a comment in a handout at the meeting. A statement in the handout by Grigsby regarding the board's position if the seven-period day was not approved angered and frustrated the teachers' association.
"We felt like the statements made bypassed the bargaining team and bargained with teachers in public. Updates are alright, but not preconditioned bargaining," True said.
Scheduling a seven-period day at the secondary level is the heart of the bitterness between the two groups.
The board wants to create a seven-period student day where teachers will teach six class periods with one prep period. The teachers' association has proposed a seven-period student day with five teaching periods, one prep period and one principal-assigned duty period for teachers.
Grigsby's handout said that if the teachers' association did not accept the board's schedule proposal that salary money for future raises might be used to "employ more teachers to have more course offerings and flexibility for the students."
"We feel the spirit of the law was violated," True said. "The board sent a clear message to teachers during the presentation, independent of their bargaining team. We are willing to come off a six-period day, but why are we considered the bad guys for wanting to look at other options for scheduling?"
The generic data provided by the administration and the school board after three years of waiting, True said, only proved the flaws in the boards' proposal.
"By using the board's own statistics, we're going to have 500 students in study hall, not an extra class. (Using this year's student registration information for the 2006/07 school year) most students don't want an extra class and chose a study hall for their extra period, if it is made available next year," he said.
True agrees that spreading the current listing of class offerings over a seven-period day will create better schedule flexibility for students, which is exactly what the board has stated it wants to do, but it doesn't create new classes.
"Not every student wants to go to college, but we need to open up the opportunity for chances for students," True said. "Our plan will work, it will create scheduling flexibility and it will save money for the board at the same time. But they won't have it because they believe that seven-period teach six is the only plan that will work in Clay County. Why? There are other options out there that are not being discussed."
Without the board considering other options, True wonders about the motive behind the new scheduling.
"If we can find a schedule that one, creates scheduling flexibility, which is great for the students; two, stays in budget, which is great for the school board; and three, keeps classes at reasonable sizes, which works best for students, teachers and the school board: Is there anything else that matters? Is this the goal, or is it to just have a seven-period day regardless of the problems," True said. "There's a huge amount of area of compromise here. If the issue is flexibility, we solved that. If the goal is teaching more classes, the contract language needs to say that. We've fixed each new problem presented to us by the board over the past three years. We're tired of fixing their new concerns when they pop up. We will not move off seven periods teach five until we get information that proves it's better to do otherwise."
True confirmed that the teachers association's complaint was filed with the Indiana Education Employment Review Board, but will not make a comment regarding further details until all interested parties receive notification.
But just because a complaint has been filed doesn't mean the teachers will end the contract negotiations. There are hurt feelings, but not enough to stop the process of doing what is best for students.
"We're a people-oriented business and it's difficult to separate feelings sometimes. We'll get over it because you don't go into teaching for the money or the prestige. You do it because you like the kids. The public's perception that we do not want to work an extra period is wrong, they've lost focus on the real problem," True said. "We're ready to head back to the bargaining table. Our next meeting is scheduled for April 6."