Quolke's Corner 11/13/11

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Last week locally, throughout the state, and across the nation all eyes were focused on Ohio as Issue 2 was defeated.  Lost in all the attention on Issue 2 was our upcoming Fact-Finding dates, the current status of our Negotiations, and the additional layoffs the board acted on last Wednesday.  Our CTU Leadership did not lose sight of these of these issues and I wanted to update everyone on all that occurred last week, not related to Issue 2. 

On Tuesday, election day,  I received a call from the Federal Mediator asking if the CTU Negotiating Team would be willing to come back to meet with the District in an attempt to settle the contract before going to Fact Finding.  We agreed and both teams met at the Federal Mediators Office on Thursday. 

On Wednesday at the Board of Education Business Session, the Board voted unanimously to lay-off 45 elementary certified teachers (effective at the end of the first semester), 10 cleaners, and 75 security officers (looks like part-time officers and is effective December 1).  These lay-offs are because of the cuts that the Board voted to approve on October 25.  Cuts that are unnecessary if the District would accept the offer that the CTU has had on the table since October 11th.  This is an offer that would eliminate the need for the cuts that directly impact students.

On Thursday our Negotiations Team reported to the Federal Mediators Office.  When we arrived at 1:00 pm it was 50 degrees out, which made for a nice fall day in November.  By the time we left Friday at 3:45 am in the morning, fall had turned to winter and we drove home with no agreement reached in a typical Cleveland snow storm.  We did not reach an agreement, but we did agree to postpone day one of fact finding in order to go back to the Mediators Office in order to try again. 

Day one of Fact Finding was scheduled to start Monday, November 14.  Days two and three are on November 21 and 22.  We will use the Fact Finding day of Monday, November 14 to try again to come to agreement.  If we do not have a contract by the end of next week – we will go to Fact Finding on the 21 & 22. 

The reality of the situation is this--No matter how angry I am or members of the Negotiating Team are at the District and the Board – the fact is that there is a legitimate deficit.  I can be, and I still am angry that they claimed to have a $23 million surplus when they did not.  I can be angry, and still am angry that they did not admit to a deficit until September.  I can be angry, and I still am angry that they did not get serious about negotiating until November.  But anger does not fix the problem.  Anger does not move things forward.  Settling this contract, having that off of the table, eliminating the cuts the Board approved in October, and having 6 weeks of labor peace would help to move things forward and salvage this school year (YES….6 weeks of labor peace because we have another wage re-opener in January.)  If there is going to be academic gains for this school year, if the graduation rate is going to increase, if we are going to stop the loss of thousands of students each year – we must reach a settlement now.  However, in order for that to happen, it takes both sides to want a settlement. 

I have always believed and still believe today that it is better to come to agreement ourselves than go through a Fact Finder.  I suspect a Fact Finders report will not be back until January or February.  By the time January and February rolls around the cuts that impact students and classrooms will have taken affect.

Tomorrow we go back to the Federal Mediator with this as our top priority – do what is best for students and fair for educators.

In Union,