By Kay Braddock
Attempts to negotiate were ongoing.
That’s one message Terry Teachers Association, MEA-MFT president Stefanie Forcella wants to get out to the public.
“We’ve tried five times to settle it and each time we were told, ‘no, (we’re) not going to do that,’” Forcella said of the Terry Public School Board’s response to negotiate the open gym and weight room positions.
TTA, MEA-MFT filed an unfair labor practice charge in June of last year after the school board voted to pay stipends to three individuals who opened the gym and weight room for students during the summer. The stipends totaled $1000, with one position receiving $600, while the other two received $200.
“They assume just because we want it brought to the (bargaining) table, that we’re against it. That’s not it at all,” Forcella said.
It was never about the money, according to Forcella, who agrees that is a common misconception. Forcella says the ULP charge resulted in the school’s refusal to add the positions to the master contract, which must be negotiated between the school board and teachers union. The master contract includes certified and extracurricular positions.
“We didn’t care who filled the position, certified or non-certified, we just wanted it attached to the schedule (master contract),” Forcella said.
The open gym and weight positions now fall under the extracurricular category.
“There’s protocol that you have to follow. … A simple following of the protocol probably could have avoided this entire mess,” Forcella said.
The school has paid over $32,000 in legal fees.
TTA members have experienced verbal assaults, according to Forcella, due to the ULP charge. Forcella believes much of the confusion comes from a lack of communication. She encourages those within the community who have questions about the ULP charge to ask a TTA member.
The negotiation reached between the teachers union and school board is nearly identical to the original stipend agreed upon by the school board last year. Those filling the open gym position will continue to divide a $1000 stipend. The one main difference - now the open gym positions are attached to the master contract and can be negotiated.
Terry Public School Board Chairman Brian Morast said the school received legal advice to accept the union’s proposal.
“At some point in time you have to stop the bleeding,” Morast said of the school’s expenditure on the charge. “We took the deal because we couldn’t afford to spend any more money on it.”
Morast contends the heart of the issue has yet to be resolved. The school is not required to negotiate for non-certified staff that fill summer time positions, Morast said, noting it could be an issue that comes up in future negotiations.
“We’re not out there to cause ruckus,” Forcella said of the TTA. “We’re just out there to make sure that everything is fair between all parties.”
Published May 19, 2010