GENOA – There was standing-room only at Tuesday’s Genoa-Kingston District 424 board meeting as the teachers’ union heard an update on contract negotiations.
Last month, school administrators announced that contract negotiations between the district and the Genoa-Kingston Education Association had reached an impasse after a year of talks. A federal mediator stepped in to help the two parties reach an agreement for a new contract.
During the public comment period, Matt Pierce, president of the Genoa-Kingston Education Association, expressed disappointment with how slowly negotiations had been going. He said the union has a “severe lack of confidence” in the district’s bargaining leadership, and also said he felt there should be more opportunities to address concerns with the board.
Board member Carrie Tucker pointed out that when the union and district are in communication, the board legally cannot talk about contracts outside of negotiations. A federal mediator met with the two parties last week and is scheduled to meet with them again in August.
“Our attorney advises us that, because we are in federal mediation, we go through a federal mediator,” said Board President Dale Pelley.
The union contract that expired June 30 allowed for yearly salary increases of 5.5 percent to 5.7 percent, depending on a teacher’s salary schedule, for five years. During current negotiations, the district asked for smaller salary increases of 4.75 percent to 5 percent during the lifetime of a three-year contract after a first-year salary freeze.
That contract would include no increases in health care contributions for employees and a retirement incentive package. The contract covers 235 classified and certified district employees.
Superintendent Joe Burgess said he would see if there are other ways the two groups can legally communicate.
In other business, the 18 food and 21 transportation service employees that were honorably dismissed in March were re-hired Tuesday. The staff members were dismissed as the district explored outsourcing options, and bids for outsourcing both transportation and food services were rejected at a July 1 meeting with a pair of 3-4 votes.
The board did increase the cost of all school lunches by 25 cents because of new federal school lunch requirements. The one-time transportation fee also increased $25. Both increases are effective immediately.
Board members Georgeann Felvey, Paul Kruse and Steve Caldwell were not present Tuesday.
District officials remain optimistic about resolving a lawsuit that the city filed in January against the district over a longstanding public works dispute.
The civil lawsuit alleges that the school district failed to finish work to a storm water detention project at Genoa Elementary School. The lawsuit asks the school district to complete the detention project as agreed upon and allow city employees to access school district property.
A 60-day stay had been placed on the lawsuit until the first week in August as the two parties try to settle the dispute out of court. Burgess said the city has been very cooperative and pointed out that the suit has had some positive effects.
“This is giving me a chance to meet with different government officials, and we can see working together only benefits both taxing bodies,” he said. “Some very positive things have come out of this.”