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School unions agree to base, step increase freezes

BALTIMORE – Liberty Union Thurston School Board members approved contracts for teachers and support staff Monday night.

The teachers’ contract is for one year through June 30, 2013. There will be no increases in base pay nor movement on the step scales. All teachers will receive a supplemental $1,000 payment in December. Base and step increases are also frozen for support staff. They will receive a $500 supplemental payment in December.

Superintendent Paul Mathews told The Beacon that the district was facing an 11 percent increase in the cost of health insurance for employees. Liberty Union is part of a multi-district consortium organized to get better health insurance prices. Mathews said the consortium switched networks to cut the increase. Both contracts also include higher deductibles and co-pays for employees, resulting in an overall one percent reduction in health insurance costs.

Monthly premiums for Medical/ Rx coverage for the next year are $771 for single employee coverage and $1,567 for family coverage. Employees pay 10 percent of the cost for single coverage and 20 percent for family. Each contract also includes a premium holiday for employees in December.

The support staff contract runs for three years with an annual salary and health care benefits reopener each year.

Base salaries have now been frozen for three years. Two years ago, employees did receive step increases if eligible. Last year there were no base or step increases. That freeze has been extended for another year, with the addition of the supplemental payments in December.

Supervisors and administrators who aren’t covered by union contracts will have the same health care benefits as all employees and receive a $1,000 supplemental payment.

“We’re trying to stay in the black,” Mathews explained. The district’s most recent five-year forecast projected that it would spend more next fiscal year than it takes in. That forecast will be updated now that agreements have been reached with all employees for at least one year.

“Our goal is try to remain in the black each year,” Mathews added. “We’re doing everything we can to control the expense side.”

In other business Monday night, board members hired OSU graduate Elena Gallagher as a part-time high school Spanish teacher. Part-time teacher John Powles will become a full-time high school social studies teacher. Krista Azeltine’s resignation as varsity volleyball coach was accepted. Supplemental contracts were approved for:

• Adam Twiss – varsity girls basketball;

• Nikole Bunting – 8th grade volleyball;

• Randy Darst – JV girls basketball; and

Sarah Rowe – 7th grade volleyball. Elementary principal Kelli Brownfield was thanked for her 14 years service with the district. She is retiring. “It’s flown by,” she said.

Revisions to the high school, middle school and elementary school handbooks were approved. High school principal Ed Miller said the tardy policy is now consistent with the middle school one. Five tardies equal a Wednesday school. The middle school handbook changed its discipline code to look more like the high school’s. A five school-day notice is now required for a vacation absence to be excused.

Board members approved the auction sale of the district’s former administration building at a May 24 special board meeting. The high bid of $35,000 at the May 19 auction was accepted for the former home at 621 Washington St.

Board members had a long list of students and coaches for the recognition portion of the meeting. Co-students-of-the-month for May were junior Taylor Dickson and Hannah Ison. Dickson is the daughter of Mike and Kelly Dickson. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Leo Club and plays varsity basketball and softball.

Ison is the daughter of Roger and Tracy Ison. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Foreign Language Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Jazz, Marching and Pep bands.

Two students each from the middle school and high school made it through the local and district fairs to the state science fair. The students were Alex Carrico, Drew Chipukaizer, Braden Glasgow and Kely Henderly. Sophomore Alex Carrico received his third straight superior rating for his Bacterial Warfare project. He also received a $15,000 per year scholarship offer from Case Western University.

Three students placed first in State FFA competition. Leanna Bachman was a proficiency winner and was elected president of District Seven. Grace Dannemiller placed first in the public speaking competition and freshman Autumn Miller placed first in the job interview competition.

The Lady Lions softball team was honored as Mid-State League champions and coach Bill Putnam as Mid-State Cardinal Division Coach-of-the-Year. Senior pitcher Sarah Klopfer repeated as 1st Team All-Ohio Softball. She will play softball on an athletic scholarship at Hillsdale College in Michigan next year. “It is extremely rare (to repeat),” Mathews said.

The varsity boys track team was honored as Mid-State League Champions and coach Krista Azeltine as Cardinal Division Coach-of-the-Year. “Nobody was even close,” Mathews pointed out.

Five track team members qualified for the state meet including the 4×100 team of Jacob Basso, Matt Maldovan, Colton Roth and Andrew Vannatta. They set a new school record, breaking a record held for 25 years. Marcus Keeran qualified for the state meet in the shot put. Sophomore Colton Roth was named All-Ohio Track & Field.

The board’s next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, July 9, at the Edward N. Sands Memorial Land Laboratory just east of the new district administration building.

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