In a phone interview, Paul Sommers spoke with The Sun on the Clearview Education Association and Board of Education’s ongoing dispute regarding a new contract.
By KRYSTAL NURSE
In the Oct. 18 board of education meeting, students reminded the board about the district’s higher-than-average SAT, PARCC and AP scores and how it wouldn’t have been made possible without the teaching staff; a parent shared her observation on “the system” using kids as a bargaining piece in the negotiation process; and a Mantua resident added that teachers’ off-hours contributions should be worked into their new contracts.
Board of Education President Michele Giaquinto also debunked rumors regarding the cancellation of Mr. Clearview, National Honors Society and Hoagies for Hopes as well as stating the board made no directive to teachers to cease before or after-school activities. She added later that a contract was presented to the union on Oct. 16, but was not accepted at the time.
District Superintendent John Horchak closed the public participation of the meeting by applauding students and parents for sharing their thoughts about what is going on in a professional manner.
At the time of publication on Oct. 19, union representatives could not be reached for comment.
Clearview Regional High School guidance counselor and Clearview Education Association (a union consisting of staff and faculty in the district) President Paul Sommers responded to statements made during the board of education meeting and discussed his thoughts on the current union contract dispute with The Sun.
The Sun: There were claims at the meeting that teachers were not directed by the administration to end after-school help or clubs, but that they were doing it on their own, do you have a response to that?
Sommers: We addressed through our Facebook page (“Clearview Education Association and Friends”) and we put all of our announcements on it, and we’ve been directing parents to that site. The statement that was made earlier this year (I have not directed anyone to do anything) was that most teachers are sticking to their contracted time until another contract is drawn up.
The Sun: Were there representatives from the CEA at the meeting?
The Sun: It was said at the meeting that a contract was presented to you guys, but it was either declined or not responded to.
Sommers: We had a negotiations meeting last Tuesday, the 16th. We proposed the last contract, which they said was not acceptable and they turned it down. What I said is we are willing to meet again to get everything figured out.
The Sun: What’s your reaction, as the president, for people coming out to speak?
Sommers: To the kids and parents: Thank you for showing up and spreading the message out. It was kind enough for you guys to come out and speak within the two hours on a Thursday night.
The Sun: There was a claim by a speaker that kids are being “used as a bargaining chip,” can you make a comment on that?
Sommers: We don’t ever use kids for anything, it’s not our goal. They aren’t a bargaining chip. This is the sixth time that a contract has not been put in place by the start of a school year, and they were all settled by December. It seems like the fact that the last six dating back to 2005 says that there’s not a great amount of interest to get it done rapidly.
The Sun: Some students are afraid of their college chances of getting hurt by this contract dispute because they cannot participate in the extra clubs or cannot receive any help. Do you have a comment regarding that?
Sommers: As a counselor, we are processing college transcripts and the fact that a club isn’t running on a volunteer basis should have no impact on a student’s college chances. If a student was previously president of a club in the past year, and aren’t it in now, they should still put that on their applications.
We have over 20 clubs that are volunteer that teachers do out of the kindness of their hearts, and the district should look into that to see how they can be compensated.
The Sun: Can you give me your final thoughts on the meeting, participation from the public and the contract dispute, as a whole?
Sommers: One thing that all of the CEA was concerned with was the negative message from the board president that night at the meeting — and we’ve had a very civil discussion previously — and we found the tone was very negative and incorrect and it was concerning.
I have been impressed with the overall process, on both sides, and it’s been pretty successful, to date, and we’re close to getting it settled. I hope the board considers a meeting prior to the Nov. 14 mediation meeting. We just want an end to this and we all agree we want to get this done as quickly as possible.
The Sun: Is anyone allowed to be made aware of what’s within the contract during negotiations?
Sommers: No one is allowed to participate due to the bargaining in good faith agreement. Both sides would want to tell the public more information, but we’re not allowed to. The worst part is that we’re not allowed to tell the public about the contracts, but that’s how it is for both sides.