Terms and Conditions of Employment
Money issues — salaries, raises, healthcare benefits and the like — tend to dominate coverage of teacher contract negotiations. But teachers’ contracts define all sorts of things beyond those issues. Under state law, anything considered “terms and conditions of employment,” must be negotiated.
Here are a few of the less-common requirements we found in Ohio teachers’ contracts.
- Bedford: During a levy or bond issue campaign, contributions to school social committees are automatically forwarded to the campaign’s coffers. Contributing is strictly voluntary, a district administrator said.
- Cleveland: A student who steals or vandalizes a teacher’s car can’t return to the school without the principal and the union chapter head’s permission.
- Olentangy: On spirit days, logos from schools other than Olentangy’s may not be worn. (This isn’t always strictly enforced, according to the district spokesperson.)
- Steubenville: Other teachers, administrators and Board of Education members may not be criticized over the public address system, in front of students or in a public meeting. Any criticism should be confidential.
- Sugarcreek: Teachers should be notified of any Public Records Act requests to view or copy their personnel files.
(Click here to read the full text of selected Ohio teachers’ contracts.)
No one in the Olentangy school district seems to know quite how the Olentangy teachers’ contract came to ban the wearing of overalls in the classroom. But in the midst of a 75-page contract, there the requirement sits in black and white amid the legalese laying out teacher salaries and benefits, grievance procedures and layoff policies.
“Year after year, in negotiations no one’s had any trouble with it, so it’s never come up. Why mess with it when you have bigger fish to fry?” asked district spokesperson Karen Truett.
Many districts across Ohio are in the same boat: A situation arises, perhaps a teacher adopting more casual dress in a then-rural district, the administrators and union members negotiating a contract react, and a requirement becomes set in stone, in effect year after year even after the original reason has faded from memory.
“Things have gotten into the labor agreements that were never meant to be there,” said Ohio School Boards Association Deputy Director of Labor Relations Renee Fambro. (Fambro was speaking in general about public employee contracts and not about any specific sartorial rules.)
Sometimes these kinds of clauses are forgotten or ignored as they become irrelevant to a district’s daily business.
In the Bowling Green school district, a 2,900-student district south of Toledo, when a levy election comes around, the teachers’ union must work to ensure teachers living in the district are registered and encouraged to vote — and discouraged from working to defeat the levy.
“That section, of course, is because if the voters support the district, they are supporting the district and likewise the teachers should support the district,” Bowling Green Treasurer Rhonda Melchi said.
Melchi said that although the requirement has been in place longer than the 15 years she’s been with the district, it’s never come up for discussion. She doesn’t remember a time when Bowling Green teachers opposed a levy.
Many years ago in the Bedford school district, a 3,600-student district south of Cleveland, the teachers’ union asked to insert a requirement into the contract that allowed teachers to request cell phones if they believed they had a student who “may present a particular danger.” The clause was part of an overall safety initiative, according to school district administrator Margaret Bierman.
District administrators said that to the best of their knowledge, no teacher has asked for a cell phone. Now, with telephones installed in every classroom, there’s little need to.
“The cell phone clause became a moot point, but simply was never…removed from the contract,” Bierman wrote in an email.
In most districts, the negotiating teams engage in housekeeping to “clean up” a contract. But taking a provision out once it goes in is difficult, said Fambro. Sometimes, the discussion at the bargaining table starts with the school board’s negotiators saying a particular requirement no longer needs to be in the contract.
“And the union’s response is, if it’s no big deal, let’s leave it in the labor agreement,” she said.