Dayton teachers ratified a new two-year contract Thursday, clearing the way for the school year to begin normally, without a strike.
They also approved a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Rhonda Corr and the seven-member school board after seven months of tumultuous negotiations.
The school board has not ratified the contract yet, but board President Robert Walker said earlier Thursday that the board is “absolutely” in support of approving the tentative deal when it votes next Tuesday.
Teachers union President David Romick said teachers will move forward with the assumption the contract will be approved. They will work today and Monday preparing for school, and will welcome children to the first day of classes Tuesday.
“We did not get what we were hoping for, but what we did get, we felt, was enough to ensure that we were in our classrooms … to move forward with educating our children,” Romick said.
When Romick announced the vote of no confidence, he initially only mentioned Corr. But he later clarified that one union member amended the original motion, adding the board to the vote of no confidence. He said the vote was overwhelmingly approved, because of the way the negotiation process unfolded.
Corr alternated between being upset by the no confidence vote and trying to focus on moving forward.
“Absolutely it’s unfair,” Corr said. “I came in for nine (mediation) days and our teachers are back at work! … With 3 percent raises (each year), and the extra personal days.”
Asked how she’d move forward, she said, “It’s all about relationships. Like anything else, you either move forward or stay stuck in the rut. I’m all about moving forward.”
Walker said the board can’t always control how people perceive them, but that they’re focused on working for the best interests of the district and its children.
The contract will be for two years, not three years as the sides had sought, and will offer 3 percent base salary increases each year. The deal does not give teachers the retroactive “step raises” they sought from 2014-16, but does reactivate step raises for future years, according to a document given to union members.
The contract adds a flat $750 raise for teachers after their 15th year, and increases the existing raise after the 19th year. The contract also added vision insurance, with union members paying 10 percent of the premium.
The union document shows that teachers accepted an extra 30 minutes per day of working with students that DPS officials wanted, rather than having that as “developmental time” that Corr said was used differently from school to school. They retain their 45 minutes per day of planning time.
The district is moving forward with five-day-per-week preschool rather than four, but gives the preschool teachers some extra planning time, according to the union document. And since the contract was ratified Thursday, the paychecks members would normally have received today will be paid Monday.
The district and its teachers started negotiating Jan. 6, but made little progress and declared impasse in April, leading to federal mediation. After some progress in May, they stalled again, leading to a two-month hiatus in June and July.
Progress was slow through two-plus mediation sessions this month, until Romick said a better offer suddenly came from the district in the early morning hours Thursday.
“A flip of the switch, a bolt of lightning, a light bulb coming on – you could characterize it any number of ways,” he said, indicating the union didn’t know what led to the change.
Corr said members of her own negotiating team were against the switch to a two-year contract proposal, but she said she overruled them as lead negotiator, in an effort to get a deal done.
“The former negotiating team (led by district attorney Jyllian Bradshaw) had five and a half months, and no movement was made,” Corr said. “The superintendent was called in and did it in nine days.”
Corr had said Tuesday that if DPS gave the teachers everything they were asking for, a levy would be necessary. Thursday night, she said the district had made one proposal where the third-year raise amount was contingent on the district either passing a levy or having a very healthy budget reserve. But that contract was not approved.
“In this contract, there is no reference to a levy,” Corr said. “That’s not something that we can rule out, because the last levy that was passed was in 2008. At some point we may have to do that.”
Corr said despite the late agreement, the district will be ready on Tuesday’s first day of school. She said student scheduling and the assigning of teachers to particular schools “has been rolling along.”
“Students start the scheduling process in the spring, requests are entered, and master schedules have to be drawn out,” Corr said. “Is every school absolutely completed? No. Some are farther ahead than others.”
Corr thanked parents and community leaders for their outpouring of support to get the contract resolved. She said “time will tell” how morale will be affected by the contract fight, but added that she wants her administrative team to better empower teachers – to work with them rather than dictate things to them.
Romick said Thursday that Dayton Public Schools is not an easy place to teach, but that the district’s teachers embrace it.
“The real winners are the students of the Dayton Public Schools,” he said. “Dayton teachers are excited to greet the smiling faces of the children of our Dayton community on the first day of school this coming Tuesday.”