By Susan Tebben
Austintown Education Association members will hear details of a proposed three-year contract next week.
Representatives from the teachers’ union and the Austintown Local School District worked late into Monday night on a tentative deal after working since August under terms of an expired contract.
Details of the contract are not being released by either party, but both say they are satisfied with how the negotiations went.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Barb Tomic, spokeswoman for the AEA. “It’s a fair contract.”
The contract will be brought before the members of the AEA sometime in the next week, but a meeting date had not been set as of Tuesday, according to Tomic.
“Clearly, there’s a lot of detail that has to be gone through,” said school-board President David Schnurrenberger. “Our [the district and the union] focus is on providing a good education for our students, and that has never changed.”
The major “sticking point” in negotiations, according to schools Superintendent Vincent Colaluca, was the budget and what the board could afford to pay based on state and federal education-funding cuts.
“It really did come down to what we could afford and what they wanted,” Colaluca said. “I didn’t feel that this negotiation was outlandish.”
Colaluca said the three-year contract that was tentatively agreed to was compromised and well thought-out even with the budget challenges. A tentative agreement that was provided to the teachers before the biennium state budget was released was turned down by the AEA, he noted.
With more state funding supposedly coming for Austintown’s proposed $19 million in fiscal year 2014, the district felt it could reward the teachers with the extra funds. But there is still no guarantee of a raise in funding from the government, Colaluca said.
“Unfortunately, we’re not like a business where if we do good work, more money comes in, necessarily,” he said. “This is a trying time as a teacher, and we’re moving very fast into the 21st-century way of teaching. But when it all comes down to it, we are one, we are the school district.”
After the AEA reviews and votes on the agreement, if it is passed, it will be sent on to the school board, which will review and vote on it as well. No time line has been set for these votes or the ratification of the agreement.
The teachers had been negotiating with the district since their contract expired and, though Colaluca maintained that negotiations were “cordial” and going smoothly, the AEA voted Feb. 20 to authorize issuance of a 10-day notice of intent to strike if they saw the need.
While negotiations went on at the board offices Monday night, teachers and supporters sat outside the building waiting to hear word. A flier was distributed outlining the teachers’ desires, including improved communication within the district, “fair wages that attract and retain quality teachers” and “improved” open-enrollment policies.