The Westerville school board on July 9 approved contracts with four bargaining units and with nonunion employees.
According to Greg Viebranz, district communications director, agreements have been reached with the Westerville Education Association, representing 1,049 licensed/certificated teachers and educational professionals; the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 138, representing 192 support staff such as custodians, food-service workers, maintenance employees and warehouse staff; OAPSE Local 719, comprising 105 bus drivers and mechanics; and the Westerville Educational Support Staff Association, representing 142 district support staff, such as secretaries, clerk typists, health aides, English as a Second Language paraprofessionals and bilingual aides, study-hall monitors and building-duty monitors.
An agreement also has been reached with Administrative Approved Staff, a nonbargaining employee group comprising 42 nonadministrative employees who work to support district administrative operations, including executive assistants, administrative secretaries, communications/technology staff, aides, crossing guards and substitutes for nonteaching positions.
The WEA and WESSA have agreed to a three-year contract, Viebranz said.
WEA's new contract will expire Aug. 31, 2021, and the WESSA contract will expire June 30, 2021.
Viebranz said OAPSE 719 and OAPSE 138 contracts, as well as AAS, have agreed to three-year agreements with a one-year extension that will expire June 30, 2022.
Employees in each of these associations, as well as those employed under AAS, will receive a 2.6 percent base-pay increase during each year of the contract.
For teachers, Viebranz said, a beginning teacher made $41,120 last year. Under the new contract, the salary for a beginning teacher will be $42,189 in 2018-19.
In addition, last school year, a teacher with 10 years of experience and 150 hours of semester credit toward an advanced degree made $64,998.
Under the new contract, he said, the salary for a teacher with those credentials will be $66,688 in 2018-19.
Ohio law also requires step increases, Viebranz said. The value varies, based on education and years of service.
For a first-year teacher in Westerville, he said, the step increase would mean about $1,700. For a teacher with 10 years of experience and 150 hours of semester credit toward an advanced degree, the step increase would mean about $2,700.
"If you consider those two scenarios, there's a $1,000 difference in step-increase value over 10 years, or about $100 per year of additional experience and continuing education toward an advanced degree," he said.
Viebranz said new teachers with a bachelor's degree would receive a step increase in each of their first 11 years in the district, whereas new teachers with a master's degree could receive a step increase in each of their first 12 years in the district.
Viebranz said teachers then receive another step increase after 15 years, 18 years and 21 years of service.
Employees operating under WESSA, OAPSE 719, OAPSE 138 and AAS also will receive a one-time pay of $300 each January.
All employee groups have agreed to health-care concessions that will increase their maximum deductibles, thereby reducing projected district insurance costs by nearly $250,000 annually, Viebranz said.
"The majority of the membership is pleased with the terms of the contract," said Rhonda Gilpin, president of the WEA. "We made some positive gains for our students."
Board president Gerrie Cotter said the board's primary goal throughout negotiations was to arrive at agreements that recognize and honor the exceptional work of all professionals employed by the district but to do so while maintaining financial commitments made to the community.
"Having negotiations completed by this time of the year is unprecedented, and I cannot express my appreciation to everyone who worked over the summer to get us here," she said. "As I understand it, the terms of these contracts and guidelines fall within what we had built into our latest financial forecast, which is great news for our community."
As a superintendent, John Kellogg said, the thought of having multiple collective-bargaining agreements expire the same year can be rather daunting.
"The process began in mid-May, which is when association representatives and management representatives first exchanged issues with each other," he said. "Our respective teams came together shortly thereafter for the actual negotiations.
"I appreciate the fact that we have a strong relationship with each of the associations and think it's fair to say that in all cases, proceedings were amicable," Kellogg said.
He said he also appreciates the fact that two of the contracts were able to be moved onto a different schedule for the next round of negotiations.
"That's also indicative of the professionalism and respect that were displayed throughout this process, so I would like to thank everyone for their hard work to complete this process prior to the start of the new school year," Kellogg said.
Negotiating teams for the district and WEA reached a tentative agreement on June 21.
The WEA membership held their ratification vote and approved the proposed contract the week of June 25. The remaining three associations each reached a tentative agreement with the district on June 28 and their respective members ratified the proposed contracts the week of July 2.
The board's contract with the WEA was set to expire Aug. 31, and agreements with OAPSE Local 138, OAPSE Local 719 and WESSA expired June 30. Employment guidelines for the nonunion employees also expired June 30.