School Board approves new projects, no mention of ongoing negotiations


The School Board takes a photo with some of the Plain City Elementary School students.

Jackson McCoy, Staff Writer, Editor-in-Chief

On Monday, September 12th, the Jonathan Alder School Board held their monthly meeting at the Plain City Elementary School. Overall, the meeting was relatively normal, covering issues ranging from septic tank issues to substitute teacher hiring to challenging aspects of teacher curriculum. However, the ongoing Jonathan Alder Education Association (JAEA) contract negotiations were omitted from the meeting. 

The school board approved two plans to fix the school’s infrastructure, including adjusting the sewage system for the high school, junior high, and middle school to be able to hold and process more waste and fixing the leaking roofs in the high school. “It sounded like [the school board] wants to make improvements,” Gastin Greene, a teacher at Canaan Middle School, says. “As far as the septic system, the leaking roof, stuff like that. It sounds like there is stuff that needs to be done and they are wanting to get the stuff done.” 

The board also witnessed a demonstration from Plain City Elementary School students about their Daily Fitness Program and approved the hiring of two permanent substitute teachers for the district, another policy that went over well with teachers. “I know they talked about the building subs, that was sounding like a really good idea,” Greene continues. “To have two people to be able to float around the schools and have people to rely on is huge, because in the past that has been a huge issue.” 

The board also proposed a new policy for challenging certain aspects of curriculums and library materials. The policy, presented by members Sonia Walker and Christine Blacka, see this addition as a good way of allowing a better voice for parents in what their kids learn.

“This board recognizes that the education of our students is a team effort that requires the personal responsibility of teachers, parents, students, and administration,” Walker said while presenting the proposal. “There are times when teachers are unaware of personal experiences faced by students that may be impacted by certain topics or books. Teachers and parents need to be aware of this potential.”

Walker also mentioned that the policy proposal was just a proposal, saying, “We invite the public; parents, teachers, administration, to review the draft policy language and provide feedback. The new draft policies are not being voted on or implemented today. The board will consider all feedback, and potentially consider the policy at the next meeting. So please feel free to reach out to us, with comments, questions, or concerns.”

Some teachers have already begun voicing their opinions on the new proposal. “I think we need more information on the challenging of literary materials, and what exactly is controversial,” Justin Hennig, AP Music Theory teacher and band director for the district, says. “I would just like some clarification on that.”

Cheryl Manbeck, the Plain City Elementary School music teacher and JAEA President, agreed, saying, “I think in the past we’ve had more detailed board agendas, so we knew either sitting in the meeting, or following up on it, where to find the information.” 

In the most recent school board elections, Jonathan Alder community members elected two new board members, one of them being Walker. Manbeck references this, saying, “I imagine it’s probably just a learning curve, trying to figure out what needs to be on the agenda.”

Notably, teachers at Jonathan Alder still did not hear anything about the ongoing contract dispute between the JAEA and the school board. Negotiations started in March and continued throughout the summer. The district offered a final offer in June, which the membership rejected in August with an 89% vote against the package. 

In a statement from the school board, Steve Votaw writes, “It’s important to remember, the Board has to balance the many interests of our stakeholders, which includes students, teachers, staff, parents, and community members.  We are committed to our responsibility to our taxpayers.”

After JAEA members voted on the contract in August, the next step was to go back to the negotiating table. “Association members were surveyed on their reasons for voting the proposed package down, and those results will be shared with the board at some point,” Manbeck writes in an official statement from JAEA. “No date has been set for both teams to return to the bargaining table.”

Both the board and the teachers reiterated they want what is best for the students. Hennig says, “It’s important to remember too, that we are all here, including those of us on the teacher’s side of the negotiation process, to create a district that is absolutely stellar. What is going to be best for the employees is usually what’s going to be best for the students, too.”

Editor’s Note: In a previous version of this article, we stated “The district offered a final offer in August, which the membership rejected with an 89% vote against the package.” This was incorrect, as the final offer was made in June and the vote happened in August.