Union, school board at odds on 2011-12 contract

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

The Levy County School Board the the teachers' union, the Levy Educations Association, are at odds over whether a contract for the 2011-12 school year can be implemented. 

The board ratified a contract in a unanimous vote at its April 2,meeting after Assistant Superintendent Patrick Wneck and Superintendent Bob Hastings reported teachers voted 203-202 to approve it on March 13.

The district is moving to implement the contract which does not have a pay raise, but does add $25 per month to paychecks in the form of an insurance premium. 

But CarmenWard, president of the LEA, said 27 of the ballots were invalid due to signature errors and that the count was not properly conducted. 

The union held another election on Friday, April 5, where the vote was 263-215 against approving the contract. 

“It is our call,” Ward said after the school board voted to implement the contract's provisions. “We have been advised by our general counsel that the (March) vote is not valid.”

School Board Attorney David Delaney advised the board, “You don't get to have multiple attempts to get the result that you want.”

With that, Board Member Paige Brookins of Chiefland made the motion to approve and implement the contract. Board Member Robert Philpot of Williston seconded the motion.

Philpot told the union representatives, “I understand what you are saying, but we need to move on. Some of these people need this money. I have a hard time understanding how this helps teachers.”

Hastings said the union has not provided clarification on why it was rejecting the vote. 

Ward and LEA Vice President Chris Curry said the Public Employee Relations Commission rules require the votes to be counted at each voting site and the March 13 ballots were brought to a central place and counted. 

Ward said 27 of the ballots had signature verification errors. She said that was one reason the election was being re-done. 

In an email to the school board reporting the results of the April 5 vote, Ward said, “We will be returning to the bargaining table to hopefully negotiate a more acceptable contract and compensation agreement for the employees.”