By Susan Tebben
School officials are responding with a little surprise and a little understanding to Austintown teachers’ new efforts to have their grievances heard.
Teachers have instituted a new “work to rule” plan in which they do only what is explicitly required of them in their contract, excluding any extracurriculars or late nights grading papers that are not a part of their contracts.
The teachers and the school district have been in negotiations for a new contract since the previous contract ended in August.
“We’ve had very good negotiations so far,” said schools Superintendent Vincent Colaluca, who said he could not discuss the terms of the negotiations.
Colaluca said he has not heard any concerns voiced about impatience with the negotiation process and that the action by the teachers is “not a big, major issue.”
School board member Harold Porter said he could not speak for the board on the issue, but as a parent he feels the effects of the teachers’ actions a different way. As a parent of a child who participates in tutoring, he is disappointed to find that his daughter’s teacher would not be giving her help in a school subject because of that teacher’s decision to not stay after school unless it is contractually obligated.
“I’m sure they’re frustrated, and I can’t blame them,” Porter said. “But now, it’s affecting my children.”
Barbara Tomic, teachers union president, could not be reached Monday afternoon.
Colaluca said he is confident the teachers would act in a professional way so that they will be treated in a professional way.
“They have a seven-hour work day, and if they don’t do those hours they aren’t fulfilling their contract,” Colaluca said. “If they want to act like professionals we’ll treat them like professionals. If they want to act like hourly employees, we’ll treat them like hourly employees.”
Though the process is ongoing, the superintendent said federal budget cuts have caused many money problems for the school district, as with any other schools in the country.
“I do feel for the teachers and what they’re going through,” he said. “I understand their frustration, but I hope their frustration is directed at the federal government.”