School board, unions still at odds

By Amanda Crowe acrowe@civitasmedia.com

February 5, 2014

FAIRBORN — A recent change to the Fairborn City Schools contract negotiation process has led to more contention between the parties.

On Monday, the Fairborn Board of Education cancelled the negotiations meeting scheduled for that afternoon. A representative from Superintendent Dave Scarberry notified the Fairborn Education Association and Fairborn Classified Employees Association that all business pertaining to contract negotiations moving forward would be conducted via email.

The unions, which represent more than 350 teachers, faculty members and support professionals in the Fairborn City School District, issued a public statement later that evening.

“Both unions are perplexed by the late notification and cancellation of the mutually scheduled event,” said union spokesperson Brian McWhorter. “Despite this sudden change in practice, FEA and FCEA remain committed to reaching a fair settlement agreement with the board’s team.”

In response to the union comments, district officials issued this statement Tuesday:

“The Fairborn Board of Education is at a loss as to why the FEA has put out a press release indicating that the board is not negotiating. The board has not refused to negotiate. The OEA Rep and board attorney have mutually agreed to draft a joint proposal to take back to their respective memberships. In fact, both parties have been working on this joint proposal for the past week.”

According to the school board, the Ohio Education Association (OEA) representative and Fairborn Board of Education attorney agreed upon the email approach rather than exchanging traditional position proposals from each party. This will allow the two advocates to concentrate on resolving issues between the parties to reach a joint agreement.

“Negotiations are going forward,” the board stated. “It is ironic that the FEA would put out misinformation alleging that the board is not negotiating on the same day that the OEA rep. and board attorney exchanged comprehensive proposals, the first proposals exchanged in over six weeks.”

After meetings had to be rescheduled due to the holidays and recent severe weather, the union members believe it is good that negotiations have picked back up. However, they do not agree that emailing is the most efficient negotiation process.

“It’s another disrespectful way to carry out negotiations. They’re not willing to meet in the same room,” McWhorter said Tuesday. “It’s February and our contract expired at the end of June. There are obviously a lot of issues between the two sides, but our leadership has gone out of their way to work with the leadership of the school district. Emailing proposals back and forth is not the best way to find a solution.”

School board members believe the unions are attempting to misinform the general public about the negotiation process. They stated that “such deliberate efforts are not productive, are not conducive to reaching an agreement, and only serve to fuel mistrust between the parties” and encouraged the unions to “concentrate on the issues on the negotiations table.”

“The solution to the outstanding issues will not be found by wasting time complaining to media that the board is not negotiating. Such time is better served by reviewing the comprehensive proposal provided to them yesterday,” the board said.

McWhorter said that the union negotiation teams were reviewing the proposal Tuesday in preparation for their bargaining session that afternoon.

“We’re still very willing to sit down, across the table, with Mr. Scarberry and his team,” said McWhorter. “We’re just hoping for a more efficient means of obtaining a contract rather than through emails.”