By Jim Newell
Lake Orion Community Schools and the Lake Orion Education Association have reached terms on a one-year contract for the 2017-18 school year.
The school board voted unanimously to approve the one-year contract at its May 24 meeting. Board Treasurer Jim Weidman abstained from the vote, citing a family member as part of the bargaining unit.
“We’re very proud of the negotiations team. The negotiations went really well,” said Superintendent Marion Ginopolis. “We made a lot of concessions last year and fortunately we did not have to do that this year.”
“We restored the concessions that were cut from last year,” said Rick Arnett, assistant superintendent of Human Resources for the district.
Jeffry Faber, president of the LOEA, said he’s satisfied negotiations are settled. The LOEA, which has approximately 425 members, voted to accept the contract in May.
“The LOEA is pleased that we were able to come to terms with the district on this agreement. With the closing of Pine Tree and restructuring of our district, it’s a great relief to enter next school year with the certainty of a settled contract,” Faber said.
The current contract begins July 1 and runs through June 30, 2018.
Under the terms of the new contract, teachers who are eligible to advance in “step” raises will advance one step.
Last year, the district froze the step increases, cut merit pay for teachers and reduced pay for coaches and extracurricular advisors.
The pay freezes saved the district an estimated $850,000 – $900,000.
The 2017-18 contract also includes a half-percent off-schedule pay increase. The district took the top step teachers, averaged their salaries and then took one-half percent of that and dispersed that amount to teachers as a pay increase.
In June 2016, 29 school administrators also took concessions, totaling $92,000 in savings.
Arnett said bargaining, overall, went well.
“It was good. This district has always had a very collaborative approach to bargaining. I appreciate that, because that has not always been the case in my career.”
“Negotiations are time-consuming and can be stressful to the involved parties. I believe that both sides would prefer to reach a multi-year deal whenever possible, but that has become extremely challenging to achieve as school funding from Lansing continues to be very volatile now for the better part of this decade,” Faber said.
Arnett said the LOEA bargained for a one-year contract.
“People are leery nowadays of the unknown. A lot of districts are hesitant to engage in a long-term contract. Typically, if they do, there is a re-opener clause,” Arnett said. “We’re happy to have one more year under our belts with the association.”
“Nonetheless, I am very thankful to live and work somewhere in which the community, school board and school administration is so appreciative of our teaching staff and schools. Lake Orion is a special place and our schools are a big part of this,” Faber said.
“Congratulations to the teachers on a new contract. You are very appreciated,” said Birgit McQuiston, school board vice president.
Faber said the current contract doesn’t necessarily address past concessions, but that the political climate at the state level makes it difficult to do so.
“We are satisfied with this contract. Yet, school funding is a zero-sum game and school districts don’t have the financial ability to adequately make up for past concessions, so I guess that the answer to that particular question would have to be no. Both sides are very collaborative during negotiations and strive to do the best that they can with each contract even with the tight constraints.
“Prop A of 1994 was really the turning point, as it took away a lot of the local control of public school districts and transferred it to the state government to pick winners and losers in the form of ideological-driven political reforms du jour.
“School “choice” is an example of this – regardless of one’s feelings on the issue, continually opening up more schools in a state with a declining population has led to a lot of redundancy in services and further diluted our limited education funds.
I truly worry about the future of the profession going forward as we’re starting to see the effects of fewer and fewer college students choosing to become teachers, and those who do are increasingly become tempted to leave the profession in search of greener, more stable pastures.”