NORTH RIDGEVILLE — The school board and the North Ridgeville Education Association reached a tentative agreement on a contract late Wednesday night.
“We are thrilled to report that we have reached a tentative agreement with the (NREA) leadership on a contract proposal with our teachers,” Kelly McCarthy, president of the North Ridgeville school board, said in a statement early Thursday. “We now look forward to the teachers voting to approve that contract. The union leaders have indicated that vote will be soon. The board is prepared to adopt the agreement in short order.”
The NREA confirmed the news with a Facebook post Thursday.
“Thank you to the members of the negotiations team and the school board members for all their hard work,” the post said. “This is great news.”
The board and union met in a bargaining session Wednesday evening in Independence from 6 to 10:30 p.m., according to McCarthy. The session was to have occurred May 1, but the federal mediator postponed it for an undisclosed reason.
McCarthy said the two sides decided they weren’t leaving the bargaining session Wednesday without a deal.
“The board was ready, and I think the union leadership was ready (to get a deal done),” she said. “We did the hard work that was needed to get it done.”
The two sides had been in negotiations on a new contract since April 2016. The old contract expired at the end of June 2016.
Earlier this year, the board declared the negotiations to be at a stalemate after the teachers had rejected what the district had said was its last best offer. On May 8, the NREA voted in favor of authorizing its negotiations team to issue at 10-day strike notice, a move the Board of Education called “unfortunate.”
Superintendent Jim Powell said last week’s events didn’t have that much to do with the two sides finally coming together.
“To some degree (the events of last week added to the urgency), but I think we were all wanting to do that anyway,” Powell said. “As we talked, we said, ‘Let’s do this; let’s get this done.’ We worked hard, collaboratively and got it done.”
During Thursday’s state of the schools event at North Ridgeville High School, the acrimony between the two sides appeared to be gone.
“On behalf of the board, and I think I can say on behalf of the union leadership, there are no hard feelings,” McCarthy said. “I think we all were very passionate about what we believed in, and during the process each side was forced to defend themselves, per se. We really have high regard for our teachers, as far as the board and administration goes. There’s no animosity. Really, (the teachers) are the crown jewel of our district, and we’re glad to be over this.”
The district is not releasing the specifics of the agreement until the union has had an opportunity to present it to its membership, but she did say, “… we have arrived at a contract that includes a healthy compensation increase for our deserving teachers while holding to our commitment to be fiscally responsible to our school district and our community.”
The next step is for the NREA to vote on the proposed contract. After that, the Board of Education will vote to approve it at a coming meeting, which McCarthy hopes will be its work session scheduled for June 6.
“It’s a great weight off all the administrators’ shoulders,” Powell said. “I’m sure it’s a great weight off our teachers, as well.”
The two sides briefly spoke on the issue of whether the high school’s marching band will march in the Memorial Day Parade, according to McCarthy, but she said as of now the band is still not scheduled to participate.
That appearance was canceled at least in part due to a work to the contract decision by the teachers and the parade — taking place after school is over for the year — was not included in the band director’s supplemental contract requirements.
McCarthy said her next priority is to reach a contract agreement with the district’s support staff.
“Our support staff has been working on an expired contract for many years,” she said. “It is one of my personal goals to come back to the table with them and get that agreement resolved, as well. I think that will put the whole district community in a much better frame of mind moving forward.”
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