UNION MILLS – Contract talks between teachers and administrators in the South Central Community School Corp. have stalled over salary and benefits, and a state mediator has been requested by the teachers union.

"The South Central Classroom Teachers’ Association and South Central School Board are unable to reach a contract settlement," according to Andrew Borrelli of the Indiana State Teachers Association. "While the parties attempted to reach a voluntary agreement, negotiations stalled over salary and benefits."

The Indiana Educational Employee Relations Board has been notified of the parties’ need for a state mediator to continue further negotiations, Borrelli said.

"Teachers have been working on an expired contract, and the impasse was declared when progress had not been made in negotiations since the start of the new school year."

Superintendent Theodore Stevens said the administration had been advised not to comment on the negotiations.

“We have made financial concessions in the past to put our students first. South Central is on good financial ground, and there’s no reason school employees are not the board’s top priority,” Curt Masson, a veteran SC teacher, said in a statement from ISTA.

"The School Board, through Stevens, asked the SCCTA what they get out of this negotiation, as in the way a private sector labor contract is negotiated," South Central CTA Presidents Ashley Medley and Katie Anderson said in the statement.

The co-presidents, along with the SCCTA membership of SCCTA, disagree with that thinking.

“What the board gets out of this contract is the best environment to have a school and the highest performing teachers around – just look at our test scores,” Anderson said.

“The lack of a competitive salary makes it very difficult to attract and retain teachers, and when the board wants us to pay more for our insurance and pay for a raise with takebacks from the current contract, it’s no wonder the School Board is not attracting and retaining teachers," Medley said.

Borrelli said disagreements at the negotiating table are nothing new at South Central.

"Last year, SCCTA rank and file struggled to pass the contract," he said. "That frustration is lingering and resonating throughout the bargaining unit as the sting of financial disrespect comes from the South Central School Board to its teachers."

The frustration stems from an "abnormally high cash balance the School Board carries from year to year," he said.

Borrelli also called into question the board’s practice of giving insurance benefits to some administrators for $1 each year.

“Teachers, part of the face of the corporation, pay thousands of dollars for their own healthcare, while some administrators get it for $1," he said. "It makes no sense for a Board to conduct themselves as if they were in financial distress when they have a hefty cash balance and administrators get insurance for $1."

There are 922 students in the South Central Community Schools, which employs 56 teachers along with other education support professionals.

—From staff reports

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