UPDATED: Gahanna-Jefferson schools, teachers reach agreement

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
The Gahanna-Jefferson Board of Education approved an agreement with district teachers during an Oct. 18 special meeting.

A new one-year agreement between the GahannaJefferson Public Schools and the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Association requires all "unfair labor practice" charges be withdrawn and a 2.25% wage increase across the board for all teachers and brings Gahanna teachers back to the classroom.

Mike Verlingo, district treasurer, said in addition to the wage increase, eligible employees already have received a step increase for the 2020-21 contract year, based on a negotiated salary schedule.

The new contract is effective July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, and the 2.25% wage increase will be applied retroactively to the beginning of the contract year. The teachers’ last contract with the board expired June 30, and their strike commenced Oct. 13.

A joint statement was released by the district and teachers association after the board’s vote:

“Our school district is one we all can be proud of – we will always be One Pride, One Family,” said Beryl Brown Piccolantonio, school board president. “We have excellent teachers, dedicated administrators and rich support from our broader school community. We are resilient, and while there are differences among us, we agree that we must provide a high quality and equitable education for all of our students.”

GJEA president Jenny Palguta said although teachers are sad to have missed four days of instructional time with students during the strike, they can’t wait to see students and are excited to do what they do best – educate students.

“We are also extremely appreciative of the community’s support, and we look forward to providing a safe, equitable, and successful return to learning for our Gahanna family,” Palguta said.

The joint statement, sent by Judy Hengstebeck, district communications coordinator, said, “We appreciate the hard work of our district and GJEA leaders in achieving our shared objective of doing what was best for our students, our families and our school community, and we ask everyone to join us on the path to healing. We know doing so will take time, patience and cooperation.” 

Superintendent Steve Barrett thanked the teachers, board and community for their patience as the district worked through the negotiations process “to deliver the best of what we can, what we know about education and what we can do,” he said.

“I think the teachers have some protections that they were concerned about, cameras in the classroom. Each of our kids is going to have a Gahanna teacher and a Gahanna curriculum.”

Over the weekend, Barrett said, teachers and the administrative bargaining team worked really hard to create an agreement that is good for everyone.

He said the district will return to distance learning with Gahanna teachers on Monday, Oct. 19 and will transition to in-person hybrid learning on Oct. 26 for grades PreK-5 and grades 9-12. 

Middle school learners who have selected full-time distance learning will be transitioned to designated distance learning teachers on Nov. 2. Middle school students in the hybrid model will return to in-person hybrid learning Nov. 2 to allow time to finalize student schedule changes.

Full-time high school distance learners will be assigned to a hybrid group for purposes of attending real-time instruction through broadcast technology, according to information released to district families on Oct. 18.

“I’m sorry there was so much turmoil but I think we learned a lot from it, and we can come together now and heal,” Barrett said, during the special meeting.

Other provisions of the negotiated agreement include:

*The formation of a COVID-19 concern committee for the purpose of communicating coronavirus-related concerns and recommended solutions to the administration

• Health and safety provisions, including a written method to report potential deficiencies in personal-protective-equipment supplies and areas that aren’t being cleaned/sanitized

• Provision for employees to be given at least three calendar days of notice any time the district is required to transition from one learning model to another

• Requirement that employees not discuss negotiations or strike activities with students or in the presence of students at any time

• Two instructional days for students to be added – May 26 and 27 – to the end of the 2020-21 academic year to mitigate lost instructional time for students 

Employees will be compensated at their individual per diem rate for these days, and a teacher work day is scheduled May 28, 2021.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla

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