SNEEDVILLE - After noting concerns relating to clauses addressing workers' compensation issues, a grievance procedure, retirement incentives and general wording on other issues, the Hancock County Board of Education voted unanimously to reject a proposed contract offered by the county teachers association.
Director of Schools Mike Antrican said the BOE and the teachers association have been negotiating the proposed contract for just over three years at the request of the association. The association recently approved the proposed 20-page contract, and Antrican said the school board has 14 days from the time the association approves the document to vote it up or down.
In starting Friday's meeting, Antrican told his board that he recently went through the contract line by line with the board's current negotiator, Mike Belcher, and both had several items of concern.
Chief among those, Antrican said, was the clause regarding workers' compensation.
Antrican said under the proposed contract, the BOE would have to pay the difference between what workers' comp pays and an injured teacher's actual salary for as long as 450 weeks.
Antrican said he was also concerned with an exclusion for federal employees, which includes Title 1 teachers, from an insurance clause and with a provision that would allow the association to select insurance carriers for such policies as buildings and automobiles.
"There are several other things I'm concerned with, and the bottom line is we can go over this line by line and address the pros and cons, but that's not the way it's presented. We've either got to vote it up or down," he said.
BOE member Dennis Holt, who at one time served as the school board's chief negotiator, said he shared the concern over the workers' compensation issue and added that he was not in full agreement with the grievance procedure section.
"We should have a little more leverage," he said.
Holt added that while he was in full agreement with many issues in the contract, he was not comfortable with the wording of other sections.
"This is a three-year contract, but once these things are in there they stay forever unless they are negotiated out," he said before offering a motion not to accept the contract.
Hugh Kyle Livesay added that he felt like the contract with teachers targets a specific group and said he believes other employees, from cooks to bus drivers, are equally as important to the school system. He cited concerns with the grievance procedure as well as an injunction regarding a retirement incentive and offered a second to Holt's motion.
During discussion prior to the vote, other board members echoed the concerns voiced by the others, with some mentioning a drug testing policy and general wording of unspecified sections of the proposed contract.
With the contract rejected, Antrican said Belcher will continue negotiating with the teachers association. They pointed out that while the association can meet to discuss the contract without the school board present, the board cannot meet without the association being allowed to attend.
The board then scheduled a March 26 meeting for 7 p.m. to begin its line-by-line review of the proposed contract.