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Fact-finding starts Thursday at SH

Teachers from other school corporations joined in a show of solidarity with those at South Harrison during the Nov. 9 meeting of the South Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees as fact-finding loomed.
The fact-finding hearing will be held tomorrow (Thursday) at the Corydon Central High School auditorium at 4 p.m. Attorneys from both sides are expected to state their cases before a neutral third party which will devise an advisory report.
A camera crew from WHAS 11 News was present last week as members of the South Harrison Education Association and their supporters brought picket signs, red shirts and rhetoric to the South Central schools complex in Elizabeth.
As has become customary, SHEA President Evelyn Bell addressed the board during the public comment part of the meeting. The message, however delivered, is ultimately the same: the teachers are broadly dissatisfied with contract negotiations.
‘We are not wearing only our red T-shirts, we are seeing red. We are put down in the eyes of the public, children … ‘ Bell said.
Bell has consistently blamed the length of contract negotiations on the school board and its administrators. Administrators respond by pointing to an earlier agreement, reached by negotiators on both sides, but voted down by the teachers.
The teachers have asked for a 2.5-percent raise. Administrators have not been able to reach that mark, though they say 100 percent of new monies have been placed on the bargaining table as well as funding from other sources.
Bell said the hiring of an assistant superintendent shows the money is there, just misspent.
‘Teachers get nothing, and the school spends $100,000 on an administrative assistant,’ Bell said.
Assistant Supt. Gary Bridwell has an $81,593 annual contract with South Harrison. That money would be equivalent to about a one-percent raise for teachers, Trustee Roger Windell said.
Those figures do not account for health insurance benefits.
‘We are dedicated to every child’s education. We will not give up on teaching here at South Harrison,’ Bell said.
Trustee Jeff Brown took issue with the SHEA’s claim that teachers won’t allow students to suffer as a result of the contract dispute.
Brown mentioned proposed cuts in art and music. He said the board decided to look elsewhere after feedback indicated wide opposition to such cuts, but as a result of teachers’ strict adherence to contract hours, choir students are losing out.
‘Tonight the choir was supposed to sing in the new auditorium. That bothers me. We’ve got to think about what we are doing to the kids,’ Brown said.
Like their colleagues, music teachers Daniel Suddarth and Rhonda Brown are not working outside 7:50 a.m. to 3:20 p.m., the hours defined in the previous contract, unless they are paid. The two will still bring their choirs to a slew of engagements during school hours.
‘I enjoy working with kids. I enjoy extra hours. I do that all the time, but I think it’s time that we settle the contract. We are not taking anything away from the kids except the extra hours which we gave for free,’ Suddarth said.