The Washington Court House City Schools Board of Education recently approved a collective bargaining agreement that includes an increase in the pay of all certified employees in the district.
On Monday, the board of education approved the collective bargaining agreement with the Washington Education Association and additionally passed another agenda item that will also impact the base pay of administrative and non-certified staff as well with an equivalent increase. According to Washington Court House City Schools Superintendent Dr. Tom Bailey, the last collective bargaining agreement expired in 2019, which was his second year in the position.
“We had already tried to pass the levy at that point, but it had failed, so the union and district agreed to do a one-year rollover for fiscal year 2020 so that we could pass the levy and be at a much better position to negotiate,” Dr. Bailey said.
The “levy” being referred to is the district’s 1 percent earned income tax levy which passed 765 “for” and 754 “against” during a special election in August of last year. Once collection begins and is in full swing, the district representatives said they will be expecting over $1.8 million each year thanks to the seven-year levy.
“However there is an 18-month phase-in for collection,” WCHCS Treasurer/CFO Becky Mullins said. “For example it was effective January 1, 2021, so it is just now withheld from employee paychecks. We will receive the first money from that in June and the estimate is only about $91,000 for this first portion. We will see more of that in fiscal year 2021-22 — our next fiscal year — in the spring because not only will you have a full year of withholding, but you will also have the first annual filing.”
“We started this round of negotiations prior to the levy — in hopes that it would pass — in late last spring and started looking at the language of the agreement, but were holding off on talking about raises and those sorts of things,” Dr. Bailey said. “So this agreement is retroactive back to July 1 of 2020 and it takes us through 2023.”
Dr. Bailey explained that the vast majority of the language in the agreement has not changed from the previous iteration with a lot of it being what he calls “typical language” of a union agreement.
“A lot of it was just brought forward and we negotiated to not change the majority of the language,” Dr. Bailey said. “We updated some of the supplemental positions to be more in line with what we actually are practicing in terms of our sports or clubs that we might offer. We updated some language because it is five years later than when it was first approved. There was nothing significant that comes to mind that changed.”
One important thing that is changing though is the certified salary schedule, which includes a base pay increase of 1 percent for staff for this year and an increase of 1.5 percent for both the 2021-22 and 2022-23 fiscal years.
“I think one of the things we wanted to do was to get closer to other districts in our region in terms of what they pay their teachers and we know from the data that our teachers — especially our less veteran teachers — were paid less than the far majority of districts around us,” Dr. Bailey said. “So this gets us closer to that and our goal is to stay regionally competitive so that we can attract and retain the very best teachers for our students.”
Along with the agreement, the district provided the salary schedules for the next few fiscal years to show the increase in wages. For instance, the original base prior to this agreement was $40,000 which will be increased for the 2020-21 fiscal year by 1 percent to $40,400 for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and zero years of experience. This amount is increased as well based on each year of experience and the education level, so with 10 years of experience and a master’s degree a teacher in the district would make a base pay of $56,055 for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The base pay will continue to grow over the next few fiscal years by 1.5 percent each year through the end of the 2022-23 fiscal year.
“I thought the negotiations went well,” Dr. Bailey said. “They had a representative from the Ohio Education Association on their team and on our team we had our legal counsel. We have a very good working relationship with the Washington Education Association and they are very easy to work with. We all wanted the same thing in this, we haven’t had new money for 29 years and we worked hard to get the levy passed so we could have more money so that we could — going back to that earlier point — attract and retain the very best teachers for our students. That was first and foremost on all of our minds.”
“We didn’t shy away from that in our conversations about the levy,” WCHCS Director of Marketing and Communications Trevor Patton said. “The better teachers you have in the buildings, the better the education is for our students and the better the education the more our community can grow. You would be hard pressed to argue with anyone who doesn’t want the best for their students and our kids in town. The best way to give them the best opportunities to learn the best things is to get the best educators in front of them to teach them in the classroom.”
Now with the levy and the collective bargaining agreement having passed, Dr. Bailey, Mullins and Patton were pleased to be moving forward and being able to offer more money to the district’s teachers.
“We have the best teachers in the region and are thrilled to be able to pay them what they are worth,” Dr. Bailey said.
Reach Martin Graham on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.