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NH contract back to ‘square one’

With one more meeting of the North Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees scheduled before three new board members take office July 1, a proposed teacher contract may not be ratified until sometime after the newly elected trustees join the board.
The five-member board and the North Harrison Classroom Teachers Association reached a tentative agreement on the long-standing impasse in early November, and the CTA ratified the contract in mid-April; however, no action was taken by the board at its May meeting regarding the contract. Instead, the focus was on explaining a hike ‘ from 87 cents per $100 of assessed value to $1.50 per $100 ‘ in property taxes for those who own property in the school district, which covers Blue River, Jackson, Morgan and Spencer townships.
Near the end of the May 13 board meeting, discussion centered on the proposal which would replace the contract that expired six years ago. In addition to a 2-percent pay increase, the proposal has a buy-out clause for those who take early retirement.
Superintendent John Roeder told school trustee Jerry Renneker, who asked if the proposed buyout discourages teachers from taking early retirement, that he was correct in that belief.
When it was asked how many teachers are eligible for the buyout, CTA president Dan Haskell replied 84.
‘There has to be a point where you say this is what we’re doing,’ he told the school board, adding later that his concern is that the two sides ‘met for several times last winter and came to an agreement, and now we’re back to square one.’
Gary Byrne, school board president who lost in last month’s election to Ramsey Popcorn manager Veronica J. Sieg Battista, said he is concerned that the buyout will cost the school corporation a lot of money.
‘It’s a double-edge sword here,’ he said. ‘I would’ve rather you ask for another $1.5 million and settle this’ rather than try to tie the severance package into the contract.
Haskell said in a phone interview after the meeting that the early retirement provision ‘ Bridge to Retirement ‘ is to entice teachers who have at least 15 years teaching experience, with at least 10 of those years at North Harrison, to retire before they reach the age of 65. The incentive is an annual payment of $6,000 that each retiree can use to pay for their health insurance until they are eligible for Medicare, he said.
‘We’ve done everything but get a board signature’ on a new contract, Haskell said. ‘Just when we think we’re getting close to something, then there’s a reason (for the school board) not to sign it.’
Byrne said in a phone interview yesterday (Tuesday) that he still does not favor the proposed contract. His No. 1 concern is the future cost of insurance.
‘The only way I’ll vote for this is if they put a cap on the insurance,’ he said, which, hopefully, will ensure no teachers are laid off if future budget cuts are made by the state.
He anticipates health insurance will rise by double digits, creating an even larger shortfall in the school budget.
‘The game’s changed’ since both sides reached the tentative contract in No-vember, Byrne said, adding that about another $1 million is actually needed to find a workable solution to the impasse.
‘No matter what (happened in the May 4 election), I felt like the new board should vote on it,’ Byrne said. ‘They’re going to have to live with it.’
Current board members Bobby Chinn and Fred Naegele had decided not to seek re-election; their seats will be filled July 1 by Steve Hanger and Marla Adams, respectively. Adams may not have a vote regarding the teacher contract, as she retired from the NHCSC a few years ago. Hanger is retired from Crawford County Community School Corp.
Byrne did not know yesterday whether the proposed contract would be on the agenda for the June 10 school board meeting.
‘It will be up to John (Roeder) whether it’s on the agenda,’ he said.