Austintown teachers union rejects arbitration

The school board will decide its next step Thursday.



AUSTINTOWN — The teachers union has declined a board of education request to enter into binding arbitration over a dispute in contract talks.

The Austintown Education Association has not negotiated with the school board since Nov. 17.

It turned down a last and best offer from the board and a tentative agreement signed by both negotiating teams, with the sticking point being the amount of planning time teachers get during the work day.

Teachers want the same input over planning time they have now, but the board is proposing to allow administrators to have the right to schedule teachers’ planning time. Teachers at Fitch who now have two planning periods a day could be asked to teach during one of them if there is a high demand for the course they teach.

Raises and health-care premium pickups are not an issue in the proposal. The current offer is a 1 percent raise during the first year of the contract and no raise in the second.

The school board asked late last week that the union ratify all issues in the proposal except for the planning time language, which would be decided by a third party — an arbitrator whose decision would be final.

The AEA said in a prepared statement Tuesday that it would rather continue with the traditional method of collective bargaining.

The talks had been taking place with the help of a federal mediator.

The AEA said it wants to keep local control over its decisions rather than rely on someone from outside the area who is unfamiliar with the community and “the complexities of our language item issues.”

“I call upon the school board to return to negotiations with a sincere desire to achieve an equitable collective bargaining agreement,” AEA president Sandy DeCerbo said.

The school board is meeting at 7 a.m. Thursday to discuss its next step.

Board president Michael Creatore said Tuesday that the board will take the AEA’s statement under advisement and will discuss it Thursday.

He called the AEA’s decision “another delay tactic.”

Creatore, who has an acrimonious relationship with the union, has said he believes the AEA is waiting until he leaves the board in January to settle on a contract.

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