Teachers' strike drags on at Ottawa Township High

October 20, 2009 4:25:14 PM PDT
Teachers are on strike at Ottawa Township High School, and contract talks have at times stalled and turned nasty.Tuesday night the teacher's organization will hold a community meeting on the situation.

The Ottawa High School teachers say they want a chance to explain to the community, especially to parents, their side of this battle that has been going on for a long time.

Students have been out of school for three weeks at Ottawa Township High with no end in sight. Both sides are heavily into the blame game.

"The board has just dragged their heels in the sand or dragged their feet in the dirt and kind of slowed the process down," said Glenn Weatherford, Teachers' Union.

"The community runs our schools, and the community is behind the board of education," said George Hutt, School Board President.

Negotiations have been going on since March, and the 108 teachers walked off the job at the end of September. As it drags on, the Ottawa High pirates have been forced to forfeit several football games, a state music title is in jeopardy, and 1,600 students are stuck at home, leaving parents feeling frustrated.

"I have to kick them to get out to look at a book or get out of bed past 9:00 and it's frustrating because they'll have a lot to catch up on," said parent Andree-Marie Koban.

The board's recent proposal is a 1.6% increase each year for three years.

The union wants 2.9% the first year, 2.8% in the second and 2.3% after that.

Both sides, however, agree the biggest sticking point has been over health insurance. The union has agreed to pay for the first time to 10%, or $185, a month for coverage.

Hutt says if the rank-and-file were only allowed to vote on this, it would easily pass.

"The real world out there is nobody else is getting raises like that. The real world out there is everyone else is paying for their insurance. They haven't had to pay for it until now," Hutt said.

The union counters that the board refuses to budge. Board members walked out of a meeting Sunday night.

"If they would stay and negotiate and not leave, I think we can get a settlement and we could be back to school as soon as that meeting was out," said Trent Swords, Teachers' Union.

When you boil it all down, the two sides are about $100,000 apart. It may not seem like a lot of money but in this small town, it's enough to cause this impasse.


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