NHCTA tries picketing over contract
Frustrated over starting another school year on a contract that expired seven years ago, several members of the North Harrison Classroom Teachers Association picketed one school board member’s residence and home business last Tuesday afternoon.
‘Over the past three years, we’ve elected board members to resolve the issues, and some have made matters worse, running their own agendas,’ Dan Haskell, NHCTA president, said. ‘While we hope new board members are going to make a difference, we can’t wait around doing nothing.’
Anywhere from 12 to 16 people stood along S.R. 135 at the intersection of Flatwood Road north of New Salisbury. They initially were on the right-of-way of Jerry Renneker’s home and business holding signs with sayings like ‘Honor your proposal’ and ‘Stop playing games’; however, they moved to the south side of Flatwood after Renneker contacted the Indiana State Police about having them removed from his property. Renneker was not home during the time the teachers were picketing, but his wife, Kim, who is an employee of the school corporation, was. She mowed the grass around the teachers before they were asked to move and even helped one teacher find her car keys after they were lost in the yard.
Jerry Renneker, a candidate supported by the NHCTA, was elected to the board in 2008.
‘We helped Jerry. I made his campaign flyers on my free time,’ Carol Mooney, a state spokesperson from the Indiana State Teachers Association, who picketed last week, said. ‘He has voted raises for his wife but has become one of the worst stumbling blocks to the teachers’ contract. ‘ ‘
Deb Knight, who has taught 35 years at North Harrison Elementary School, agreed that Renneker, along with school trustee Michael Beyerle, who also was elected in 2008, are ‘blocking’ the passing of a new contract.
‘They didn’t honor the proposal like they said they would,’ Knight said, adding that the three board members who were elected this year ‘ Marla Adams, Veronica Battista and Steve Hanger ‘ want to reach a settlement.
A tentative contract was negotiated in November by the school board then ratified by the teachers’ union in April. But when the board voted on the contract in July, it failed, 2-3, to pass.
Knight said the stalemate is hurting the community and morale of the teachers.
Haskell said the group hoped to remind the public of the situation the teachers are facing now that they are ‘two months into a seven-year dispute.’
He said that, in the past year, ‘every time we’re close to something positive,’ the board puts up a new barrier.
Gary Byrne, who was defeated in May in his bid for re-election to the school board, was on hand to videotape the protest, after getting permission from Renneker to be on his property.
He said the biggest issue to settling a new contract is health insurance and blamed the teachers’ union for the lack of progress in negotiations.
‘The ISTA needs to be out of it,’ he said, adding that North Harrison has good teachers.
He also said that NHCSC has been fiscally responsible, avoiding laying off teachers like many other school corporations have had to do.
‘I want peace, too, but not at the expense of our children,’ Byrne said, alluding to the possibility of larger classroom sizes if a new contract resulted in laying off teachers.
Beyerle, who commented Monday by telephone about the protest, also is concerned about the student-teacher ratio per building, following a number of teaching positions not being filled.
He anticipates Roeder providing the board with more financial information in the near future.
‘We’re still communicating and looking at numbers,’ Beyerle said. ‘The subject wasn’t dead with the board.’
There’s one key number Beyerle said he wants to see before approving a new contract: He wants to know that there is enough reoccurring revenue to afford it.
‘We’re going to have to enter the health care discussion,’ he continued. ‘There’s going to have to be some kind of cap on insurance.’
With talk circulating about federal stimulus money maybe available, Beyerle said that money is not designed to pay teachers.
‘It’s to keep from riffing or to hire back if we’ve laid off teachers,’ he said, adding that it’s helped the school corporation ‘build a cash balance’ so they haven’t had to lay off teachers.
When asked what the NHCTA plans to do next, Haskell said he didn’t know.
‘No meetings are scheduled,’ he said, but John Roeder, North Harrison superintendent, ‘has a plan he believes will get them through.’
Until then, the union intends to ‘take one step at a time to move forward,’ Haskell said.
The North Harrison Community School Corp. school board will meet in regular session Thursday, Sept. 9, at 7:30 p.m. in the high school auditeria. The meeting will include a public hearing on the 2011 budget.