Pandemic bonus part of new Mason teachers union deal, but other negotiations not affected by COVID-19

The on-going coronavirus pandemic has changed much in area schools but so far not wo when it comes to labor contract negotiations with teachers, say state and local education officials. This week Mason school officials announced they had reached a new, three-year employment agreement with its teachers with only minor provision changes prompted by the pandemic. (File Photo\Journal-News)
The on-going coronavirus pandemic has changed much in area schools but so far not wo when it comes to labor contract negotiations with teachers, say state and local education officials. This week Mason school officials announced they had reached a new, three-year employment agreement with its teachers with only minor provision changes prompted by the pandemic. (File Photo\Journal-News)

The coronavirus pandemic has changed much in area schools, but so far not when it comes to labor contract negotiations with teachers, said state and local education officials.

Scott DiMauro, president of the state’s largest teachers union, the Ohio Education Association, said multiple districts reached COVID-related employment contracts with their unions over the past year under the coronavirus.

Some dealt with the challenges of simultaneous online/in-person teaching and some with safety protocols, especially for unions that include food service and custodial workers.

Mason school officials announced recently that they had reached a new, three-year employment agreement with their teachers.

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Sara Clark, chief legal counsel for the Ohio School Boards Association, said “there isn’t a standard model for how schools have operated during the pandemic.”

Clark said COVID-year issues have cropped up in some negotiations around the state — things like class size limits, live-streaming protocols, snow day policies, evaluations for teachers during remote learning, and teacher leave policies due to quarantine situations.

“With regard to safety concerns and protocols, I think there is some reluctance to put language in the negotiated agreement … since the standards, requirements and recommendations are so fluid,” she said.

In Mason, which is the most recent local example of public school teachers approving a new labor pact, the district’s 620 teachers agreed to a new contract that will see instructors receive two percent increase in salaries for 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, and a 2.25 percent increase in salaries for the 2023-2024 school years.

The agreement also includes a 3 percent one-time cash payment for Mason’s educators who have been working through the pandemic.

In addition, teachers agreed to increase the employee contribution to health insurance in the third year of the agreement from 10 percent to 15 percent.

“Just as employees in many professions have had their working conditions impacted by the pandemic, Mason educators have adapted to our new context, some of the lessons of which we see reflected in this three-year agreement,” said Maria Mueller, president of Mason teachers’ union.

Tracey Carson, spokeswoman for Mason Schools, said the pandemic had little impact on negotiations or the final agreement.

One exception, said Carson, was “one language piece that probably spurred from the experience. During COVID, we were very fortunate that we were able to match completely the number of staff who wanted to teach online with the number of families who wanted their students who wanted to learn online.”

“The new contract has language that if in the future a circumstance arises where that may not be the case, there is a protocol that relies on seniority,” she said.

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