BELLWOOD - The dispute between the Bellwood-Antis school board and the district's teachers shows little sign of abating.
In response to Bellwood-Antis Education Association President Erin Kelly lashing out at the board and administration at the Sept. 10 board meeting, the board sent a letter to all district households to "explain the truth about the recent hiring of 3.5 teaching positions that the BAEA is opposing."
"We needed to get the information out. There has been a lot of information on social media that is not accurate. We need to show the people the actual facts of what is going on," said Kenneth Loucks, board president.
In April, the BAEA and board agreed on a salary increase - a salary reopener under the 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," Kelly said at the meeting.
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 claims despite an agreement to allow the BAEA to use the retirement savings to help current teachers, the board reneged on this agreement and instead decided to hire 3 full-time substitute teachers, Kelly said.
In its letter, the board claims the union is opposed to the new hirings because many teachers would receive a smaller raise if the new teachers are placed on a salary schedule for this school year.
The teachers union, before these teachers were hired, proposed a salary schedule with many teachers receiving raises between 7 and 10 percent in one year, according to the letter.
"We agreed with the teachers to provide $109,713 toward salaries for the 2013-14 school year. We remain committed to that agreement. The teachers union has refused to include these newly hired teachers in the salary schedule in order to preserve their excessive raises for this school year," the letter states.
Tim Andrekovich, BAEA secretary, said the positions were created to take money out of the salary schedule.
"We originally agreed to a 3.99 percent raise and now it's down to about 2.2 percent." Andrekovich said.
The BAEA claims the new teachers were hired as nothing more than aides and didn't receive an actual daily schedule until after the Sept. 10 meeting.
Superintendent Brian Toth previously said the new teachers are full-time teachers, not substitutes. He said during the opening couple of weeks, they may have filled in for teachers, but each now has a set schedule to work with students. Two of them later in the year will fill in for long-term absences of teachers to provide instructional continuity for students, which will save the district money.
Andrekovich agrees that his membership would receive smaller raises if the new teachers are placed on the salary schedule for the current school year.
"Forty people at the top of the salary schedule would receive about an $89 raise after we took a freeze two years ago to help save the district about $200,000," Andrekovich said in an email. "If we didn't take the freeze at that time, the board and superintendent threatened to furlough five teachers."
Andrekovich said the salary schedule proposed by the BAEA is the exact same salary schedule/matrix that has been in place since about 1994 after the salary schedule was compacted.
"This is nothing new. We do not have across the board raises. Depending on where you are on the salary schedule will determine the amount of a raise that is received. Generally people at the beginning and at the top receive smaller raises and teachers in the middle of the schedule receive larger raises," Andrekovich said.
The board is again asking the teachers to prepare a salary schedule including "all regular teachers of the district," the letter states.
"Again, we ask the board to honor their agreement. They hired four actual classroom teaching positions at the June board meeting, sent us the information about who they hired and the step to place them on and then asked for a salary schedule. We did just that, and they didn't like the numbers so they hired four more positions to absorb the $109,713 they agreed to spend," Andrekovich said. "Its not that we are greedy, it is what is fair and what the board agreed to do."
The teachers' contract expires June 30, 2014. Negotiations are expected to begin in January.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.