Franklin board, teachers heading to contract mediation

Teachers held solidarity gathering Friday prior to classes

Franklin school teachers met before classes started around the flagpoles at their respective school buildings Friday as a show of solidarity in their current contract negotiations with the Board of Education.

Teachers wore black shirts as a statement to the board and school district that they wanted better treatment and compensation for a new contract. The current contract between the board and the Franklin Educational Association was initially approved as a three-year pact that began Aug. 1, 2011. That contract was extended in 2014 for another year as the district was in the midst of a levy campaign, which was approved by voters.

Franklin is just the latest teachers union to clash with its district. Lakota teachers in Butler County just reached a tentative agreement Wednesday on a new contract after long negotiation period with that district. They held a similar solidarity gathering several weeks ago.

Superintendent Michael Sander said negotiation meetings were held three times, April 14, April 21, and May 5. Following the May 5 meeting, an impasse was declared and a federal mediator will conduct a mediation session, possibly in June, Sander said.

According to news reports, the FEA says tension is high among the members of the union and that they were “fed up.” The union also said the proposed contract was “insulting,” and that teachers have taken pay freezes in the past and were promised to be taken care of once the May 2014 levy passed, but has not come to fruition.

The Journal-News could not reach union leaders for comment Friday about their issues with the district’s offer.

However, the Cincinnati television news station Fox 19 reported the FEA said the board had offered the continuation of health care and a 1 percent increase on base salaries for the next three years. The union says that for a new teacher that equates to $371 more a year, for teachers at the top about $774.

While FEA teachers had not received an increase in their base salary, they have continued to receive step increases in their pay throughout this current contract period, according to board Treasurer Jana Bellamy.

A teacher’s actual salary is the base salary, plus step increases in each of the following zones: those holding a bachelor’s degree; those holding a bachelor’s degree with up to 150 semester hours of education; those holding a master’s degree; and those holding a master’s degree plus 30 semester hours of additional education. Each step is a percentage increase based on education level and years in district, Bellamy said.

Excluding the costs of benefits paid by the district, the base salary range goes from $37,162 for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree at step 0 to $77,283 for a teacher with a master’s degree plus 30 semester hours at step 25, Bellamy said.

The average salary of a Franklin teacher is $59,308 a year, according to the district. Of the 196 teachers employed by the district, 70 percent or 101 teachers hold master’s degrees, and 22 percent of the teachers have 20 years or more of experience.

Sander declined to comment about the negotiations saying saying that he “believed in bargaining fairly and in good faith.”

He also declined to discuss or confirm what the board’s offer was to the FEA.

“Teachers are looking out for their best interests,” Sander said. “The district wants to pay a competitive wage, but it also has to watch how tax dollars are spent. I think in the long run it will all work out.”

Sander, who was wearing a black Franklin polo shirt and did not know about the union teachers wearing black shirts Friday morning, said he was “a little surprised about Friday’s union action.

“Teachers have a right to to show solidarity,” he said. “I don’t take it personally because it’s part of the ‘business.’”