Grove teachers say ‘zero progress’ in talks

A mediator-requested bargaining session Monday between the Valley Grove School Board and Valley Grove Education Association resulted in “zero progress” in the ongoing negotiations, according to the teachers union.

A press release issued Tuesday by the Education Association said the board responded to the teachers’ latest offer with a letter threatening that if an agreement isn’t reached by Aug. 16, the board wouldn’t guarantee its offer on wage increases in its final offer and could eliminate retroactivity.

The teachers have been working without a contract since June 30, 2016.

“The threat tells you all you need to know about this board’s mentality,” said Education Association President Amanda Culver. “We came prepared to negotiate and offered to increase the work year, something the board has requested, and we were met with a regressive ultimatum to accept their final offer by Aug. 16 or they would make it worse,” Culver added.

“Our members have already rejected the board’s final offer so it’s unclear what they were hoping to achieve with this stunt,” Culver said.

The Education Association, which represents 69 teachers and education specialists, has already issued an Aug. 28 strike notice if an agreement isn’t reached by that date.

The union says wage increases and healthcare contributions remain at the heart of the disagreement

The association has proposed a 2.6 percent average increase and the school board is insisting on average increases of 2.34 percent, the press release says. That is a difference of roughly $56,000 over the life of the five-year contract, a figure that Culver addressed at Monday’s school board meeting.

“The board acknowledged that the difference is only $56,000 and then chose to repeatedly spread the falsehood – including in a newspaper ad paid for with $1,500 of taxpayer money – that the difference is per year when clearly the difference is an average of $11,200 per year over the life of the five-year contract,” Culver said.

“Are they deliberately misrepresenting the cost by saying it would be $560,000 over the next 10 years when the true figure is $112,000 or are they incapable of running the numbers accurately? It would take 50 years for the costs to equal what the board is claiming,” Culver added.

The association maintains it is prepared to continue to negotiate, but the board has shown no such willingness, the press release said.

“When they want to get serious and try to figure out something that both sides can accept, we’re willing to join them,” Culver said. “But it seems they simply want to engage in a battle of wills in which everyone loses. Our teachers have devoted their lives to the children in our classrooms, and we earn every cent we make.

“We have been exceptionally patient in trying to reach a resolution, but we won’t be stepped on by this board any longer; not when this board has hoarded millions of dollars more in proportion to their budget than almost any district in the state,” Culver added.