The Oswego District 308 School Board and the Oswego Education Association (OEA) union continue to negotiate a new contract, with working hours for high school teachers and salaries the two main sticking points.
Teachers have been working without a contract since June 30, and the School Board heard a negotiations update from its attorney, Maureen Lemon and their Monday night meeting.
The District submitted its most recent proposal Nov. 8 and requested the proposal be presented to the entire OEA. The OEA’s bargaining team indicated they needed to have their executive committee review the proposal before deciding whether to submit it to their membership for a vote.
As of late Thursday evening, OEA president Darla Medernach said the OEA had decided not to put the proposal to a vote for their membership.
"We are trying to find something fair and equitable," she said. "We're still negotiating."
At issue in negotiations is the high schools transition from the block to flex-8 scheduling and how that affects the length of the teacher work day. The new 8-period scheduling keeps teachers in school longer, but has them teaching less each day, said Lemon. Flex-8 creates additional passing periods and a longer lunch for teachers.
The expired contract included a 40-hour work week for all teachers, with 27 hours devoted to student contact time and 13 hours for lunch, preparation and planning. This included five periods of classroom instructional time, one prep period, one supervision period and one duty-free lunch period. The OEA has requested to keep the high school workday as outlined.
The board had proposed the flexibility to assign teachers six instructional periods with one prep period or five instructional periods with one prep plus one supervision period.
In February, the OEA and district administrators reached a tentative agreement for the high school teachers’ work week and work day for the current school year. The District’s two high schools were staffed for the current year based on this tentative agreement.
Due to the agreement, about 9,000 minutes of daily instructional time had to be covered by additional staff members, said Lemon. The cost of this extra staffing is estimated to be between $900,000 and $1.6 million.
Lemon said the arrangement was made without the board’s approval by previous administrators who have since left the district.
“Logistically it was too late to change for the current school year,” she said.
Board President Bill Walsh said the board honored the tentative agreement for this year, but changes would be needed for the future.
“Because the Board was never made aware of the commitments made by the previous administrators, the negotiations have been prolonged,” he said.
Another point for negotiation is teacher salary. The district had offered, based on a three-year contract, a half-percent salary increase the first year, a 1 percent increase the second year and a 1.5-percent increase the third year along with lane increases.
There would be no salary step increases, said Walsh. However, he added, not advancing a step on the salary schedule has no impact on the teacher’s seniority within the district or the Teacher Retirement System.
For instance, a teacher with five years of service would have eight years of service credits at the end of a three year contract.
“It is important to note, that lane movement is available, which can be obtained through additional post graduate hours,” Walsh said.
Medernach said the OEA has met with the district’s negotiating teams numerous times since January and have met three times in joint meetings with a mediator since October.
She said she had hoped the negotiations would be finalized earlier in the year; however, the process was delayed because new administrators hired by the district in recent months “need(ed) to be caught up to speed.”
Medernach said finding an agreement before winter break would probably be pushing it, but she’s hopeful another meeting will happen soon and said, “Progress is being made.”
At this time no new meetings have been scheduled.