The Reynoldsburg Board of Education will officially welcome new superintendent Melvin Brown at an open house from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4, at the central office, 7244 E. Main St. -- and will follow that immediately with a special meeting to vote on a new contract with district teachers.

The Reynoldsburg Education Association and the board's negotiating team, which included members Neal Whitman and Rob Truex, Treasurer Tammy Miller and Assistant Superintendent Jocelyn Cosgrave, reached a tentative agreement on a new contract in just four days. The proposal has already been approved by the REA.

Board President Joe Begeny was not permitted to sit in on the negotiations because he is a Columbus City Schools teacher and is a union member.

Both sides agree that contract talks this time around differed greatly from the contentious negotiations three years ago that led to a 15-day strike.

"The process was much more of a negotiation than in the past," REA President Kim Cooper said in an email. "They listened to us, we listened to them. It was nice to be listened to."

"It was important to us to make a statement," Begeny said. "We all had to come together on this. We couldn't allow what happened the last time to happen this time."

The proposed contract calls for base pay for starting teachers to increase this month by 2.5 percent to $41,596; in August 2018 by 2.25 percent to $42,634; and by 2 percent in August 2019 to $43,487.

Teachers who experienced a step freeze on the pay scale in 2013-14 will recover a step.

Maximum class sizes are now called guidelines in the new contract instead of "aspirational goals" as stated in the 2014 language. A class-size cap was one demand of the teachers union in 2014.

Begeny said he doesn't think the district will ever reach the point where there are hard caps.

"The point is to build toward a trust (between teachers and administration) that there shouldn't be a need," he said.

Merit bonuses based on evaluations are gone. Teachers still can apply for a performance bonus if their students perform significantly better than expected, but the union now will help the administration decide on the criteria for such awards.

If the district finds itself in the position of laying off teachers, the order of those layoffs will depend largely on seniority and less on teacher evaluations.

Under the terms of the new contract proposal, teachers will be paid extra if they must take on an unassigned class in place of a planning period.

And they will be protected from discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identification.

When asked whether it was by design that the district's negotiating team was completely different this time, Begeny said attrition led to that situation.

Three of the five board members are different, and once they took office in early 2016, they immediately fired the district's legal representation during the strike, Pepple & Waggoner. Attorneys from Bricker & Eckler represented the district in the latest contract talks.

District administrator Jana Alig, one of the 2014 negotiators, left Reynoldsburg schools for another job in June 2016, and in September 2016, the board paid her a $42,000 legal settlement to agree that she resigned voluntarily and would not sue.

Tina Thomas-Manning was Reynoldsburg's superintendent in name only until July 31, but had no part in the negotiations and no longer works in the central office. In June, she was given a $100,000 consulting contract as part of a legal settlement after she threatened to sue for race and gender discrimination and retaliation.

Before officially taking over as superintendent Aug. 1, Brown worked under a consulting agreement to sit in on the contract talks and for other work he has done.

Since April, he has collected about $12,100 in consulting fees from Reynoldsburg schools.

sgilchrist@dispatch.com

@shangilchrist