Board prepared to contract with Huffmaster should teachers’ union authorize work stoppage

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 (August 3, 2012) The Westerville City School District (WCSD) Board of Education today approved a resolution authorizing district officials to purchase Phase I security and personnel services from Huffmaster in the event of a work stoppage by the Westerville Education Association (WEA).

“We remain optimistic that we will be able to negotiate a successor contract with our teachers,” said Board of Education President Kevin Hoffman. “We’ve been at the bargaining table all along and intend to continue bargaining in good faith. Without any assurance from the WEA that it will not strike, we had to prepare by taking this precautionary measure.”

The Board’s current contract with the WEA does not expire until August 31. Negotiations toward a successor contract began May 23, 2012, when both bargaining teams exchanged issues to be discussed during the negotiations process.

“School begins for first through twelfth-grade students on August 15, so if an agreement is not reached by then, we will open under the terms of our current contract with the teachers union,” Hoffman said. “Finalizing a new contract remains our primary goal, but at this time, preparing for a potential work stoppage is also the responsible thing to do. If the teachers decide to withhold their services from students, our intent is to keep schools open using high-quality substitute teaching professionals while maintaining a learning environment for our students, staff and community that is as safe and orderly as possible. We would require the services of Huffmaster, a company with more than 45 years of experience in managing such situations, to make this possible.”

The Board of Education made a commitment to the community that revenue from an emergency levy approved last March will maintain a balanced budget through at least Fiscal Year 2015. The most recent five-year forecast approved by the Board indicates that the district could stretch those funds and operate with a balanced budget through Fiscal Year 2017.

“As employee compensation is typically the largest expenditure for any school district, and as the teachers’ union is the largest of our employee groups, the outcome of these negotiations are critical to our ability to keep that promise to taxpayers,” Hoffman explained.

A federal mediator has been assisting with negotiations since the beginning of the process, which has been a standard practice in past negotiations. The mediator helps both bargaining teams work through those typical issues such as salary, benefits and working conditions. This year bargaining teams are also working on compliance with new state legislation that impacts the work and evaluation of the district’s teachers.

“We understand that there is tremendous community interest regarding the status of negotiations with the teachers’ union,” Hoffman said. “Because of collective bargaining protocol, we can’t share specific details, but we’ll provide frequent updates on the district’s web site and through an information line we’ve established at 797-7900.”