The Reynoldsburg school district has established an online forum to answer questions about its latest contract proposal with the teachers union -- a proposal that ties salary increases to how teachers are rated in the state's new evaluation system.
The contract proposal is a continuation of the district's drive to eliminate scheduled pay raises and base teacher compensation on performance in the classroom, according to Tricia Moore, district director of partnerships and shared services.
The current three-year contract with the Reynoldsburg Education Association expires July 31. The REA negotiating team would not comment on the proposal or the negotiations.
The offer from the district also eliminates step increases and does away with the current "one size fits all" health insurance plan in favor of cash payments that REA members could use to buy their own policies.
Moore said after the current contract proposal was released in response to a public records request from The Columbus Dispatch, school board members began receiving questions from residents.
"The contract certainly has attracted the interest of the community, so we wanted to respond to that in a straightforward and factual way," she said. "People can send us their questions and we will do our best to address everything we can."
The question-and-answer forum is online at reyn.org/FAQ.aspx.
Questions may be sent to Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or emailed to any school board members. Click on the Board of Education link on the website for those email addresses.
"We have been talking a long time about compensation-based on performance," Moore said. "This is about putting the very best teachers in front of our students. We want the flexibility to pay the best teachers what they are worth."
She said bonuses called "student improvement incentive awards" have been in place in the district for more than 10 years and are based on student improvement.
"The new contract builds on what has been established," Moore said.
The new proposal specifically ties salary increases to how teachers rate in the state's new evaluation system. Teachers who earn "accomplished" ratings under the system would get a 4-percent increase each year of the contract. Teachers who rate "skilled" would get a 2-percent increase each year and "developing" teachers would get a 1-percent increase the first year of the new contract.
Bonuses for teachers would include $500 each if their building receives an overall composite grade of A on the state report card or $250 if the school receives a B grade.
Other bonuses and awards are tied to student performance on state tests.
According to the contract offer, the district could award a teacher $2,000 if student performance "is significantly higher than expectations," or could hand out a Fellowship Award worth up to $30,000 if student performance far exceeds expectations "and a teacher has accepted increased responsibilities for number of students, number of credits, research, professional development or other entrepreneurial effort of high value to the district."
The new plan would provide annual cash payments to employees "to purchase the level of insurance that is right for them -- and keep the change," according to the contract offer.
Moore said the exact amounts of those cash payments remain to be negotiated.
The FAQ page on the district website says the payments "would be sufficient to purchase a high-quality plan available in the new state insurance market. The administration believes teachers individually will do a better job of acquiring coverage that suits their specific needs ..."
Moore said the intention of the proposal is also to eliminate a current inequity between the compensation of married teachers versus single teachers. A married teacher who chooses family health insurance coverage increases his or her compensation package by $10,000 per year "without any corresponding increase in the quality of his or her teaching."
"This is inherently unfair to single teachers and our proposal seeks to close that gap," according to the FAQ page. "Similarly, the taxpayers of Reynoldsburg are covering the cost of insurance for spouses, including working spouses with access to other insurance, at the expense of talented single employees. The proposal seeks fair compensation based on level of teaching skill rather than teachers' personal lifestyle decisions."
Moore said the district would like to keep the negotiation process as transparent as possible.
"I think there is an assumption that this process has to be very difficult, but when it comes to the association and the district, both have high aspirations for students and it is a just a matter of how we get there," she said.