Dayton school board accepts teachers’ contract

Dayton school board President Robert Walker (left) greets teachers union President David Romick on Tuesday night, as Superintendent Rhonda Corr holds a birthday gift for Romick. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
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Dayton school board President Robert Walker (left) greets teachers union President David Romick on Tuesday night, as Superintendent Rhonda Corr holds a birthday gift for Romick. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

Dayton’s school board voted 6-0 Tuesday night to adopt the tentative contract with the teachers union, allowing the school year to move forward after months of labor strife.

The teachers had ratified the two-year contract Thursday and opened the school year Tuesday as normal, with the expectation that the board would say yes hours later.

“I want to express my gratitude to all those individuals who worked so hard to make this situation come out as it did, and I don’t take that for granted,” board member Hazel Rountree said. “I think people conceded on both sides, people devoted tremendous time and energy and thought, and I think this is a time for celebration.”

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Rountree said a back-to-school rally for teachers will be announced Wednesday.

Union leaders said teachers were excited to return to their classrooms Tuesday.

“Today was a great day,” said teachers union vice president Joni Watson. “The kids were happy to be back, and the teachers were really happy to be back. It was a great day for everybody.”

The contract gives teachers back-to-back 3 percent base pay raises that are on the high end of Dayton-area contracts, and boosts some longevity raises. But it does not pay the retroactive step raises from past years that the union sought and that some other districts paid.

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Teachers union President David Romick said the raises keep starting salaries competitive and “reward some of us long-termers for our devotion to the district.” He also cited good contract language on teacher evaluations and working with English as a second language students.

“We’re pleased overall, and we look forward to moving forward and working with the district to put things back on track,” Romick said.

Superintendent Rhonda Corr thanked both her own negotiating team and the teachers’ team.

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“Thank you so much for everybody coming together and putting our common interest in our children,” Corr said. “We look forward to a great, positive working relationship as we move forward.”

But there was a surreal period late in the meeting. Romick stepped outside to speak to the media and was asked about the union’s vote of no confidence in DPS leadership. He reiterated that 99 percent of members backed the vote.

“We have no confidence in this board and superintendent to serve the district nor the Dayton community,” Romick said. “Some things need to change,” he added, referring to “interpersonal relationships” in the district.

Moments later, school board President Robert Walker asked Romick to come forward, even though Romick had said he did not intend to speak at the meeting. Romick brought some of his leadership team with him in case the board wanted to address negotiations or the vote.

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But Corr and all of the board members came down from the dais and presented Romick with a Happy Birthday balloon and bouquet, shaking hands all around with a very surprised Romick and teachers.

Romick said he sees an upward trend in Dayton Public Schools, citing an “A” in student growth two years ago, improving state test scores from this spring and teachers unified to keep moving the needle. But it was a cautious optimism.

“We’ll be watching to see if there are changes starting to come about, and if not, unfortunately we could very well be back in this same position in 18 months where we start looking at our next contract,” he said.

Walker said repeatedly that he wants all parties collaborating with a focus on students.

“Whatever we want to think about our … negotiations over the last several months, I’m pleased for the depth of the relationship I see developing,” he said.