By Lindsay Owens Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — MONTGOMERY— Members of the Barr-Reeve School Board met Wednesday night for what on paper, looked like it would be a short meeting, but a packed house of concerned patrons meant otherwise.
Superintendent Travis Madison and teachers have been unable to come to an agreement on teacher contracts and have now moved to impasse. Typically, most schools have contracts in place by Oct. 1, or 60 days after collective bargaining can start.
Impasse will mean that a mediator, a third party, will be assigned to work with the teacher’s union and the school board to come to an agreement. The teacher’s union and the school corporation will split the cost of the mediation. The two groups can meet with a mediator up to three times during a 30-day period. After 30 days, if an agreement cannot be made, the two parties would move onto fact-finding. Fact-finding is similar to using an administrative judge.
“Negotiations are never easy,” said Madison. “This is a challenging time for every school corporation.”
Local patrons, many who were teachers or retired teachers, voiced concerns to the members of the school board over teacher pay, insurance and overall morale within the corporation among other things.
One retired teacher told the board that she did not feel things were going well at the school and she was worried. She believed spending at the school was out of control.
Board member Scott Lottes told the audience, “Education in Indiana has changed a lot in the last few years. We want to make Barr-Reeve as good or better than it has ever been.”
While costs for running the corporation have gone up, revenue for the school has stayed the same. In May, residents owning property within the corporation limits voted in favor of a referendum that would keep the close-knit Barr-Reeve Community Schools afloat for the next seven years. The measure meant that a new tax levy for up to 35 cents per $100 of assessed property value would be applied to property owners.
The passed referendum states that the school system can only levy what cannot be supported by the general fund and the corporation has to outline everything that will be paid for out of the referendum fund. Some teacher salaries are being paid with money from the referendum.
Members of the board said that not only is the referendum paying some of the teachers, without it, some of the teachers may not have their jobs.
Many patrons also voiced concern over the cost of insurance. Teachers on a family insurance plan pay more than $500 per pay period for the benefits and board members do not.
Several teachers felt that the overall morale was down at the school and that it would stay that way until negotiations are complete.
One teacher described the situation as disheartening. “I’m going to go and do my job and put 100 percent into it, but wouldn’t it dishearten you to know that someone else, with less experience, got to that point (top of the pay scale) and you didn’t?,” said JayR Perkins, who is both a teacher and a coach.
“We appreciate every one of you in this room,” said Galen Graber, board member. “We really do.”
Barr-Reeve is not the only school corporation in the state struggling with teacher contracts. Teachers at Carmel Clay Schools, near Indianapolis, had been working without a contract for more than a year and were assigned a fact-finder in September, and as of Thursday still had not come to agreement. The contracts for the 2013-2014 school year at Carmel Clay are also currently being negotiated.
In other business, Alisha Wade was recommended by Superintendent Travis Madison to be the elementary cheer sponsor and Camilla Graber was recommended to replace Karen Graber as a cook. Karen Graber retired Sept. 30.