Bellwood union unhappy with hires

BELLWOOD – Bellwood-Antis Education Association members are not happy with the district’s school board and administration.

The teachers union claims a decision by board members in August to hire 3 teaching positions will negatively affect the 93-member association.

In April the BAEA and board agreed on a salary increase – a salary reopener under the current contract – for members for the current school year .

“We agreed on a 2 percent raise [$109,713], plus giving the BAEA the attritional savings from the four retirees that year,” BAEA President Erin Kelly said.

The 2 percent pay raise was approved by board members in May.

In July, the BAEA created a salary schedule and sent it to the district. However, a few days later, BAEA received an email from district Business Manager Kim Van Gorder stating that “we spent 227 percent more than we were allowed to spend,” Kelly said.

Shortly after that communication with the district regarding salaries stopped, and the salary schedule for 2013-14 has yet to be approved.

In August, board members agreed to hire 3 teaching positions and again asked the BAEA for its salary schedule for 2013-14, Kelly said.

The BAEA is “greatly concerned” about what it calls “the real intent” behind those hirings.

“Despite this agreement to allow the BAEA to use the retirement savings to help current teachers, the board obviously reconsidered its decision and then reneged on this agreement and instead decided to make sure they controlled the retirement savings by hiring 3.5 full time substitute teachers,” Kelly said.

“The bottom line is that the decision to hire these full-time substitute teachers was made to put the BAEA in its place. It seems that after agreeing to allow the BAEA some discretion for using the retirement savings, the school board and our superintendent concluded that they wanted power over this savings.”

Kelly claimed the new teachers are not being used to better the education at Bellwood-Antis.

“The superintendent’s and the board’s decision to use these new teachers as subs instead of full-time classroom teachers shows that they are being financially irresponsible to the taxpayers. They’re paying these teachers $40,000 a year plus benefits to sub for the sole purpose of manipulating the BAEA salary schedule and decreasing our salaries despite the agreement we made in April.

Superintendent Brian Toth said the new teaching positions are filling a role.

“The teachers are full-time teachers, not subs. Although, during the opening couple weeks they may have filled in for teachers, each now has a set schedule to work with students. They will be working to assist students first each day. Two of them will then [later in the year] fill in for long-term absences of teachers to provide instructional continuity for students,” Toth said. “This will save us money in costs to bring in subs. They can fill in the classroom to maintain continuity.”

Neither Board President Kenneth Loucks nor Solicitor David Andrews wished to respond to Kelly’s comments.

Meanwhile, the teachers’ current contract expires June 30, 2014. The teachers accepted a wage freeze for the 2011-12 school year, the first year of their present three-year contract.

The teachers also slashed classroom budgets, made due with older textbooks, cut back on field trips and cut technology budgets, Kelly said.

“Our teachers have been more than willing to work with the district to ensure that we can continue to provide the quality education that our children deserve and our community expects,” Kelly said. “Yet, after all of our good faith efforts, your negotiating team has treated us with disrespect,” Kelly said.

“The board has always treated the teachers with respect,” Toth said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.