Mathews superintendent: 'We're done' negotiating

By Jordan Cohen


The union representing nonteaching employees of Mathews Local Schools will meet Monday evening for what their field representative describes as a “ratification or strike vote.”

It will be the union’s second vote on the same contract in less than a week. On Wednesday, the first vote ended in a 12-12 deadlock.

“We’re either going to approve it or give a 10-day strike notice,” said Ron Blatt, field representative of Local 611 of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees. The local represents 30 custodial workers, cafeteria employees and bus drivers.

Blatt said six local members did not attend the earlier ratification vote on a tentative settlement reached last week. Earlier this month, the union had issued a strike notice for March 14, but withdrew it after Blatt reported progress following a meeting with a federal mediator.

The decision to have another vote follows a statement from school Superintendent Lewis Lowery that he has no intention of returning to the bargaining table.

“We’re done,” Lowery said. “I don’t see any reason to hold any more meetings.

“We went before the federal mediator in good faith, and when we left our last meeting, we had a tentative agreement,” the superintendent said. “There’s nothing left to discuss.”

Both sides have declined to divulge specifics about the proposed agreement. The union has continued to work under its previous contract that expired last summer.

The stalemate comes at difficult time for the small school district with a student population of 823. The board of education is trying to generate public support for a $24.7 million bond issue that will appear on the May 6 primary ballot. A 9.35-mill levy would finance construction of a new kindergarten through 12th-grade building and cover demolition costs of the current combined high school and junior high, nearly 100 years old, and the two elementary schools, which were built in the 1960s.

A similar issue but for a slightly lower amount, $22 million, was rejected by 59 percent of the voters in 2009.

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