BLANCHESTER — Teachers packed Monday’s Blanchester School Board meeting to express their frustrations over what they feel are promises not kept.
School Board President Kyle Wilson addressed certain critiques expressed in an open letter shared on social media.
The letter, posted by Putman Elementary School third-grade teacher Casey Phillips on Facebook, talks of cuts being made in staff and elective courses. According to the post, this leads staff to “operating at a bare-bones level, when compared to what we had when I (Phillips) started nearly 20 years ago.”
The letter indicates they met with the board to negotiate a new contract where “concessions were made on both sides and compromises were made as well.”
The contract signed last August said the staff wouldn’t have a pay raise in the 2019-2020 school year and would work snow days.
“For their part, the board agreed, after looking at the five-year financial forecast for the district, that staff would get a 2.5 percent raise the next two years of the contract, as long as we paid a larger percentage of our insurance coverage,” the letter says.
Then a few weeks later, the letter stated the staff was told “the board is now requesting to not hold up their end of the contract. We were given a choice to forgo our raise, as was promised, or there will be teachers cut.”
The letter goes to say that the staff had their questions ignored — including where the money had gone — and feels that this was planned to make them look like the “bad guys.”
Wilson started by telling the crowd that he will answer any question they have and that he’s an “easily accessible guy.”
Concerning specifics in the letter, Wilson believes a few items were taken out of context or were not correct.
According to him, among 14 cut staff members, one of them wasn’t a counselor but a social worker. He also denied the increased class sizes at Putman Elementary, saying after looking over the past few years they remained “relatively the same” size.
In regards to the board “not holding their end” of the contract, he said, “I completely understand where you’re coming from, but I want to let you know where we’re coming from … but that was not out goal. We were just kind of spitballing ideas … we were just trying to think in ways that hadn’t been thought before.”
As for the money, he listed events that affected them financially including losing $50,000 in federal Title 1 funding.
“We’re not saying it’s your responsibility, I’m just letting you know where we’re coming from,” Wilson said.
He also said he’s only heard from Jon Mulvihill — a computer tech teacher at the high school and President of the BEA — in regards to questions and concerns addressed at the board meeting.
Wilson and the other school board members invited the teachers to speak with them during the meeting’s executive session at the school board’s office.
Mulvihill told the News Journal he spoke to the board on behalf of the teachers.
“I presented information and the board members were receptive to what I had to say,” said Mulvihill. “It went really well and I am optimistic that we will agree on the solution moving forward.”
Mulvihill also told the News Journal that nothing was finalized, but, without wanting to act prematurely, he indicated what they agreed on “was good for the teachers.”
Wilson had similar feelings after meeting with staff members.
“They were understanding of our scenario and we were understanding of theirs,” said Wilson adding he looks forward to the next step in working with them.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574