Union members speak at BOE meeting in Geneva | Local News


GENEVA РMembers of the Association of Teachers of the Geneva Region, students, alumni and residents of the region filled the auditorium of the Lyc̩e de Gen̬ve and spoke out in favor of the teachers at a meeting of the Education Council of Geneva City Schools on Wednesday evening.

Earlier this week, union negotiators issued a 10-day strike notice to the district after more than six months of negotiations between the two sides.

Before the meeting started, Board Chair Sarah Fisher read a statement saying she wanted the students in the district to be the best in the county, and Geneva students to graduate with high hopes and at least some idea of ​​what they want to do. with their future.

“I think you can agree that we have the same basic goals,” Fisher said.

The meeting had two public comment sessions, each limited by board policy to half an hour, with a maximum of five minutes per speaker. Both public comment sessions have reached the maximum allotted time.

Prior to the start of the first public comment period, Fisher said the board had established three parameters for collective bargaining, including quality education for all students, fiscal responsibility and teacher recognition through competitive compensation.

“Even in tough times, we’ve been able to keep our teachers at the highest county average salary for traditional districts,” Fisher said. “Our teachers have the opportunity to earn the highest salary in the county, at the top of our salary grid, and we’ve always provided a great benefit package.”

This insurance benefit package is one of the sticking points between the district and the union, with the district coming up with a plan that would not allow spouses of newly hired teachers to use the district’s insurance plan. they have access to insurance through their employer. The other point of contention is requiring teachers to educate students online and in person at the same time. The district said there are currently three students who are being educated in this way.

The first member of the public to speak at the meeting was the president of the Association of Teachers of the Geneva Region, Zack Mansky, who said he was hired in the district 20 years ago, and that this past year has probably been the most trying.

“For the past 10 years, our union has worked with administration during times of financial crisis,” Mansky said. “We took the equivalent of four step freezes, as well as four years of zero percent base salary increases, as insurance premiums and the cost of living have steadily increased. We made these sacrifices because we knew it was best for the district and the community.

Teachers worked with the district to adopt the first new levy in 20 years, Mansky said.

“Now when the council has the finances to rebuild Geneva to the best of the county, the new superintendent decides to fight with the teachers and disrupt the education of the students,” he said.

Mansky said negotiations had backed off, with the superintendent demanding a change in teacher ratings.

Cheryl Ramsey, teacher and spokesperson for GATA, said the community deserves the best from everyone.

“During the pandemic, we have all been called upon to face a storm like no other in the history of our community, our state, our country and the world,” said Ramsey. “We all took the opportunity to continue educational services no matter what, despite the lack of any contingency planning for such an event, despite the obstacles we had to overcome to bring the education to all of our students in every way possible. . Why? Because we are the leaders we were called to be when our community needed us most.

Ramsey asked the board if they would be leaders or followers of the superintendent.

Retired teacher Connie Klein-Hart spoke out in favor of teachers.

“In my many years of working in Geneva schools, I have never experienced such low morale as I have witnessed today,” she said. “Everyone does their job in a professional manner, as you would expect, but it has sometimes been difficult, when you don’t feel appreciated, seen or heard. “

Teachers in the district are incredibly dedicated, Klein-Hart said. There are still programs in the district feeling the effects of budget cuts made when the district was in a time of financial crisis, she said.

Representatives of the teachers’ unions from Conneaut and Riverside also spoke at the meeting, expressing their support for GATA.

Many students have raised the issue of a project to renovate the high school media center into a new council office, priced at $ 200,000.

“The number of people present last night clearly shows that a common goal that we all have is the passion for the schools of the city of Geneva,” said Thursday the superintendent of schools of the city of Geneva, Terri Hrina-Treharn. She said disinformation was circulating and information had been posted on the district’s website.

The council passed a resolution during the meeting, in response to the 10-day strike notice. The resolution states that anyone taking unauthorized leave constitutes a breach of contract and could result in termination or disciplinary action.

The resolution also increases the rate of pay for substitute teachers to $ 225 per day and authorizes the superintendent to hire temporary workers for the duration of the strike and pay for necessary supplies, personnel services, technology and equipment. ‘she deems necessary.

The resolution states that the superintendent is the only person authorized to cancel the school, and she can make any changes necessary to maintain the educational program and ensure the safety of students and staff.

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