Teachers frustrated over lack of contract

First Posted: 4/24/2013

Teacher Cindy Lynch expressed the frustration of many Wyoming Area teachers when she pointed out to the school board that members had okayed a large expenditure for equipment repair but couldn’t find a way to settle a contract with the teachers.

At the school board’s regular meeting on April 23, Lynch said, “Take care of your equipment. We are your equipment.” She added, “I haven’t gotten a raise in four years.”

Before the meeting, teachers had distributed a flyer with a large number printed on one side. The number 1,168 represented the number of days the Wyoming Area teachers have been without a contract. In a humorous approach, the teachers pointed out all the things that have happened since the last contract expired. The flyer ended with the statement, “If Apple can make four different versions of the iPad in 1,168 days, shouldn’t the Wyoming Area School Board be able to negotiate one contract?”

Tom Melone, Wyoming Area’s financial manager, showed the board an updated budget which was more favorable than his last projected budget. The revised budget still predicts a $333,000 shortfall if taxes are raised to the limit allowed by the state.

Union President Melissa Dolman responded to the budget presentation by Tom Melone by asking the board, “At what point do you plan for a teacher contract?”

Board member Gil Dominick was quick to respond, saying “When are you gonna bend?”

Dolman replied the union had proposed a bend at the last negotiating session.

At a previous meeting, representatives of the teachers’ union had been asked by school board members to suggest ways the district could cut expenses. At Tuesday’s meeting, Dolman read a lengthy list of cost-cutting measures suggested by teachers.

A resident complained about a possible leak of confidential information concerning Superintendent Ray Bernardi’s contract. He cited an article taken from a political blog. Board member Campenni also agreed that she deplored previous leaks from confidential meetings.

Board treasurer Frank Casarella pointed out that the board still hopes to adopt a budget which does not call for a tax increase.

Melone said that, without a tax increase, an additional $535,000 would be added to the shortfall.

The next negotiations between the school board and the teacher union will take place on May 1.

The board approved the appointment of head fall coaches for the 2013 season.

Ray Bernardi asked for a change to the school schedule in June. He asked for and received permission to release students after a half a day on June 10, 11 and 12. On those days, Bernardi hopes to have inservice training for teacher, including a drill on how to respond to an active shooter in the building.

The agenda called for accepting bids for football equipment but Mary Louise Degnan, who serves as bid chairman for the board, declined to ask for a motion to approve the bids.

Degnan said she knew nothing about the bids and had not been involved in any step in the opening and accepting of them.

Board treasurer Frank Casarella made the motion to accept the bids. The motion passed but Degnan, Carl Yorina, Elizabeth Gober-Mangan and Estelle Campenni voted against accepting the bids.

Dominick announced that the district’s policy regarding the use of district facilities and the fees charged would be reviewed in committee.

Members and the coach of the district’s tennis team attended and stayed through the long meeting in the hopes of making a case for repairing the tennis courts. The tennis team currently plays all its games away as its own courts are in disrepair.

The board was told that the US Tennis Association is interested in the lack of facilities and might be willing to contribute the lion’s share of the cost of refurbishing the courts.

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