Source: Sherman Publications

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New teachers’ contract OKed, still includes union dues

by Trevor Keiser

April 10, 2013

Twenty-four hours before the new "Right to Work" law was set to go into action, the Oxford Board of Education approved the new Oxford Education Association (OEA) contract.

The teachers' union contract is a three-year agreement ending in 2016 and it still includes union dues.

The "Right to Work" law, known as Public Act 349, was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in December.

It prohibits unions from requiring public employees to become a member or financially support it.

"The contract was approved prior to the Right to Work law going into place, so essentially everything remains the same," said Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources Nancy Latowski. "It's the standard language that's in there."

Some districts are afraid of losing funding due to pending legislation which states that the House appropriations subcommittee for public K-12 schools and universities would limit state aid to those entities that approve employee contracts between Dec. 10 and March 28, unless they can prove the new contract will result in a savings greater than 10 percent over the existing contract.

Oxford is not afraid of this happening because Latowski said they have a special clause in their contract, so they won't lose any funding.

"We actually have a clause in there that states that if there is any potential law that could pass (and) hurt the district in regards to funding, everything would revert back," she explained. "We would not be harmed by that at all."

Board President Colleen Schultz said the Right to Work and loss of funding was something both the board and administration were concerned about.

"I do know that before we made any decisions, we got (an opinion from) legal counsel so we would make sure (everything was okay)," she said.

OEA President Jim Gibbons agreed.

"That was a concern really on both sides of the fence," Gibbons said. "That was not just a school district concern, but a concern of OEA because if the funding gets cut, that could have ramifications that hurt the kids and hurt us in other areas."

As far as the contract itself, Latowski said due to numerous changes made in the last contract agreement, there were only a few changes regarding teacher assignments and professional development sessions. Some articles that still need further study are supplemental pay schedules, such as extra pay for coaches and extra curricular positions they have, as well as benefits and future compensation.

"The remainder of the agreement remains unchanged," she said.

"The district is still working in this current school year's budget and starting to build next year's school budget," added Gibbons. "It's hard to reach an agreement financially when we don't have all the information we need to have in order to do that."

Latowski praised the work between the district and OEA. "The OEA has been extremely cooperative in revising contract language, which will help us reach our student achievement goals," she said. "It is appreciated."

Schultz agreed. "As always, I think the district and the OEA work very well together," Schultz said. "We as a board want what's best for the teachers and I think the teachers want what's best for the district."

Likewise, Gibbons said he was "happy" they were able to work with the district to make a deal.

"I think it benefits the school district extending the language that we did and it obviously benefits the OEA and the teachers in the district," he said. "There are a lot of school districts that don't have the working relationship between the teachers and the administration that we do in Oxford.

"We're fortunate we're able to work together to get things done that are practical and make sense."