Federal Hocking Reaches Contract Agreement With Unions

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The Federal Hocking Board of Education has agreed to a new three-year contract with both of the unions in the district. 

During last week's regular meeting, the board approved contracts with the Federal Hocking Teachers Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1292. 

"I am pleased," said Supt. George Wood of the agreements with the two unions. "We worked collaboratively with both unions and I am really happy with a three-year contract for both."

This is the second consecutive three-year contract for both unions. Previously the agreements had been for one year at a time due to the financial situation of the district. 

The contract also allows for the terms to be re-opened if the district is able to improve wages or benefits. With the potential "perfect storm" of bad funding, as Wood described it, with the Holzer tax exempt situation, the state guarantee for district funding and a 10 percent increase in insurance, the district was still able to offer a 2 percent raise for each of the next three years. 

"The district faces a lot of uncertainty with insurance, the governor election in the fall and the new state budget next year. We were in a good spot to make that offer and will do more if we can," said Wood. 

Wood referred to the changes from the current three-year contract to the new one as "meaningful yet minor." 

Going into the negotiations, Wood stated that "the board, administration and unions were very cooperative and focused."

With the teachers' union the district tried a different approach this year with interest based bargaining. According to Wood, the two sides start with detailing what their respective interests are with regard to the negotiations and the contract. They then meet to discuss those interests and why it is important to that party.

"It was a good experience," said Wood. 

Some additional work also went into the contract with the teachers union due to the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System. 

"We developed our own forms. We are doing it our way," said Wood. "The state gave a model and we have come up with our own."

The process of creating the documents for the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System at Federal Hocking took about a year and was completed prior to the formal negotiations. The committee of four teachers, a principal and the superintendent met over the course of a year to create the documents and will continue to meet through the next year to evaluate how the system is working and if any changes are needed.