Ringgold board approves fact-finding report; teachers’ union rejects it

Ringgold School Board on Wednesday approved a fact-finding report in the continuing impasse with its teachers union. The teachers rejected the same report.

Ringgold Middle School in Finleyville

NEW EAGLE– Ringgold School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the report and recommendations issued by a state appointed, independent fact-finder in the district’s continuing impasse with its teachers’ union.

School board president William Stein said the teachers’ union rejected the fact-finding report Tuesday and the members are expected to take a second vote on Oct. 12. The fact-finding recommendations are not binding.

The teachers have been working without a contract since July 1, but had been negotiating for more than a year. The nearly 200 teachers authorized a strike several days before classes started in late August but were prevented from walking off the job during the fact-finding process.

“Our members have spoken unanimously,” said Ringgold Education Association President Maria Degnan in a press release. “This fact-finding report does nothing more than further the already large disparity in educator salaries in the area.

“Ringgold’s salaries are the lowest among the 105 closest school districts, and this report would do nothing but increase that disparity. This is in no way a fair or objective decision by the fact-finder.”

Degnan continued, “This is the third contract negotiation since early 2000 in which the district has sought to suppress salaries and seek concessions. Our members have accepted concession after concession over that time.”

Superintendent Karen Polkabla said details of the fact-finding report could not be released until after the teachers take the second vote. The district must also take a second vote after a public comment period. A 48-hour notice must be given before teachers can strike.

The last contract, a four-year agreement, was approved in August 2014 following protracted negotiations. The teachers worked without a contract for a year and authorized a strike before reaching the deal.

In other news the board approved a motion to accept a proposal from Massaro CM Services, LLC to extend construction management services for the middle school project through Nov. 17 in the amount of $15,472.