Teachers and the administration for Avon Lake City Schools will meet to prepare for the upcoming contract negotiations that will set teachers’ pay for the next three years.
District Superintendent Bob Scott said the administration worked with the teachers union, the Avon Lake Educators Association, to clean up and update the contract last year. This year, it’s time to address salaries, he said.
The school district administration and ALEA meet with a federal mediator through a process known as interspace bargaining.
“Rather than the old-time bargaining where someone throws out a dollar amount or we want this issue changed, we write them in (interspace bargaining) terms,” Scott said. “It’s what we feel the issues are, and both teams come up with solutions and then we work on the solutions.”
Using this approach creates a more amicable environment, said Jeff Arra, Avon Lake High School English teacher and ALEA president. It avoids contention and helps solve the issues, he said.
There has been a lot of shared sacrifice in the past five years, Arra said. The district has seen difficult economic times, he said, and the district and teachers have used a team approach to deal with it.
“We all understand where we’re at,” he said. “We’re hoping to come out of it with an acknowledgment of that sacrifice.”
The last time the district and ALEA bargained about salary, Arra said, the district faced significant cuts in funding from the NRG Energy Inc. power plant taxes and state funding formulas. The community has been supportive of the schools, he said, and the district and teachers worked together to keep costs down. Since 2011, he said, there were four years of a base wage freeze, and three out of those four years included step freezes as well. When the steps resumed, there was no back pay, he said.
“These contracts were overwhelmingly supported by the teachers,” he said. “Times necessitated it for the fiscal health of the district, and they accepted that.”
The administration and ALEA will meet Thursday to begin the negotiation process. Scott said he expects the bargaining to go well.
“ALEA has been very good at looking at the bigger picture of what’s good for the kids, the district and the teachers and going from there,” he said.