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Superintendent Smith's Comments from EVSC Board Meeting

EVSC School Board Meeting – Supt. David Smith comments

Continuing Business
7-6-15

And finally, there have been numerous questions and/or comments in the media recently regarding negotiations that have occurred over the past three months. 

It has been well documented that there were two critical concerns that proved insurmountable:

  1. The Board has the responsibility for who works with and around our students and therefore must have the final say in matters of employment. 
  2. And the second concern centers on requiring employees to pay a mandatory fee to the union. 

While much has been made about these being new issues, it really is very simple.  Since the signing of the last agreement, there were two grievances that were submitted by the leadership of Local 215 to arbitration that had serious financial and employment ramifications, and the second concern arose due to the fact that 15% of employees who are eligible for 215 membership do not wish to be members – many of these are employees who chose to discontinue membership last summer when the contract lapsed.

Much has been mentioned about the final two days of negotiations and the number of proposals that were submitted by the leadership of 215.

What I haven’t seen in the media is that the negotiator for 215 required, as a pre-condition of acceptance, that these two proposals on the two separate issues be accepted or rejected together as a package.  In other words, the second proposal on grievances was partnered with the second proposal on Union Security and both had to been accepted or rejected together.  While there was some movement on Union Security, it only addressed current employees by providing a fixed period of time only at the beginning of the agreement to withdraw from paying a fee to the Union.  The language did not address our employee’s continued right to choose and also was not included in the contract language itself, but only in a separate Letter of Agreement.  Overall, none of the Union’s proposals on Union Security addressed all of the Board’s legal concerns. Concerns that are very similar to those of this Board are now slated to be heard by the US Supreme Court.

Additionally, ALL of the Union leadership’s proposals on grievance procedure made Binding Arbitration the final step – a step that was NOT in 80% of the expired contracts.  Each subsequent Union proposal inserted yet another layer of review above the board, moving the decision making authority even further away from the board.  The Board had made it very clear that they would not bargain away their authority to make employment decisions.

It has also been reported in the media that some don’t think it is fair that this elected Board, as a party to the agreement should have the final say in these matters.  The elected Board is the governing body of our corporation.  I and all other employees are the staff side of the corporation.  The staff side of the corporation follows statute and procedure to investigate and then, if appropriate, to recommend employee discipline.  The Board as the Governing Body decides to approve or reject the staff’s recommendation.  And this process includes a conference between the Board and the employee where the employee may present evidence and may also be represented by legal counsel.  It is clear that this is a system designed for checks and balance.  Additionally, this is the process that ALL Indiana School Boards must follow for teachers.  So clearly, School Boards, who are a party to teacher contracts, have this responsibility required of them in Indiana law.  While it is correct that arbitration is in city and county union contracts, our employees work around children and city and county employees work around adults.  The bottom line is that this Board has the ultimate responsibility for those who work around our students and they must also have the congruent authority.

It was the negotiator of 215 who required, as a pre-condition of acceptance, that the two proposals on these two separate issues be accepted or rejected together as a package.  And it was the leadership of 215 who stated they are not willing to have a system that allowed the Board to make the final decision.  It seems clear why President Duckworth stated that neither side was able to move sufficiently to reach an agreement.

Finally, we’ve heard that this is about union busting and retribution, and while that makes a great sound bite for our local news, you would have to dismiss the following facts in order for those concepts to be true: 

  1. Even though our School Board is responsible for those who work with our students, they should not be allowed to have the authority to make those decisions. 
  2. You would have to dismiss as insignificant the recent decision by the United States Supreme Court to hear a similar case of public school employees being forced to pay a fee to a union as a condition of employment. 
  3. And finally, you would have to dismiss the fact that this School Board has awarded more than $200M in construction contracts in the last decade thanks to the graciousness of Vanderburgh County property tax payers; and this Board worked very hard to make certain that the large contracts were broken into smaller amounts to ensure that the work would stayed local – and approximately 95% of that work went to local union workers. 

I’m sorry that our employees have been put in the middle.  For someone to suggest that your wages and your jobs will be cut  - well they are simply playing on your fears.

The educational landscape has changed so much in the last several years and we need partnerships that understand these changes and are willing work with us to make certain we are the very best school corporation we can be.

I’ve stated this before in the public and I will state it again tonight, no one is going to have their wages cut or will lose a job due to not having a collective bargaining agreement.  

Great people do matter!  That’s more than just a slogan – and we WILL continue to offer a wage and benefit package that allows us to attract and retain the very best.

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