The Olentangy school board on July 20 approved one-year contract extensions for about 300 bus drivers, custodians and other classified union employees that include no base-pay raises and freeze step-pay increases.

The Olentangy school board on July 20 approved one-year contract extensions for about 300 bus drivers, custodians and other classified union employees that include no base-pay raises and freeze step-pay increases.

The contracts with the two Ohio Association of Public School Employees locals, which represent bus drivers, custodians and other workers, is retroactive to July 1.

The contracts will expire on June 30, 2012. Members from both locals ratified the contracts on June 30.

Superintendent Wade Lucas said before the July 20 school board meeting that the contracts will save the district about $150,000 for the 2011-12 school year.

The contracts come on the heels of action earlier this summer by the district to freeze step-pay increases and provide no base-pay raises for about 300 nonunion classified workers, including secretaries and mechanics. That move will save the district another $200,000 next school year, officials have said.

The contract extensions now put all unionized contracts on the same timetable to expire next June, including the contract with teachers and certified personnel. The teachers' current contract does allow for step-pay increases but no base-pay raises.

Lucas told board members that district employees are willing to sacrifice during tough economic times.

"They do understand the plight and economic conditions, not only of Olentangy schools, but the whole nation," he said.

The board also approved a settlement agreement with a health-care consortium of eight other school districts that Olentangy left last August. The settlement, stemming from a lawsuit Olentangy filed in Delaware County Common Pleas Court last year, provides $2.1 million to Olentangy and $2.084 million to the consortium known as the Champaign, Delaware, Marion, Union School Employee Welfare Benefit Association.

The court had ordered that $4.184 million be placed in a special fund after the lawsuit was filed. Olentangy, which joined the consortium in 1988, contended that was money owed to it upon leaving. The consortium countersued, saying Olentangy was not owed that money. The consortium administers certain medical, dental and prescription drug benefits for eligible school district employees.

Olentangy treasurer Becky Jenkins said before the meeting that the consortium was no longer meeting the needs of Olentangy because it is much larger than the other districts.

"We could leave and be more cost-efficient with health care," Jenkins said.

As a result of the settlement, Olentangy will be reimbursed $2.1 million that it has already spent for health claims that were being processed at the time the district left the consortium. That money will go into the district's general fund, Jenkins said.

The consortium had contended that a district leaving the group must forfeit any funds already paid to the group. Jenkins said the settlement was a fair compromise.

All the school districts in the consortium must approve the settlement. An Olentangy spokeswoman on July 21 said some districts still must act on the settlement.

After leaving the consortium, Olentangy hired with Medical Mutual of Ohio to handle health care. That cost the district about $18 million this past year, Jenkins said. A district task force is exploring other health-care options in an attempt to reduce costs.

Ted Knapke of the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio gave a presentation on a superintendent evaluation system being used in about 60 districts in the state.

Olentangy also is using this process as part of the board's first evaluation of Lucas, who was hired to a four-year contract in 2008. The process, which focuses on strengths such as goal-setting and performance, also can be used to evaluate other administrators and staff.

Lucas, who is paid $160,000 a year, and other Olentangy administrators, have forgone pay raises during the past couple of years.

Board president Julie Wagner Feasel said after the meeting that it will be up to the board to decide upon completion of the evaluation whether to give Lucas a raise.

The evaluation process will take several months, she said. "I am hoping that we can do it (the evaluation) in October or November," she said.