NILES - It took some convincing, but the Board of Education finally agreed to put it in writing that teachers be involved in how to implement new state policies regarding staff evaluations.
"My recommendation is to vote no for the simple fact that I think (the union) is wrong," board member Christopher Doutt said just prior to Thursday's meeting.
Teachers filed into the Niles Board of Education office, flooding the room and hallway, as the board held a special meeting both to approve the final appropriations for the fiscal year and to approve the first and second reading of the Evaluation of Professional Staff Policy recommended by the Ohio School Boards Association.
The new policy sets guidelines for evaluations of both teachers and administrators and is being imposed statewide. The district has until June 30 to adopt the policy and a year to decide how to get it done.
Union President Brian McConnell presented the district with a memorandum of understanding to have written documentation that teachers would be involved in talks with the district on how the policy will be implemented.
Legal counsel had previously recommended against it, and interim Superintendent Frank Danso said he was reluctant to go against the lawyer's recommendation.
Tribune Chronicle / Bonnie L. Hazen
Niles teachers union president Brian McConnell signs a memorandum of understanding with the Board of Education during a special board meeting on Thursday. The document provides that teachers will be involved in how to implement new state policies regarding evaluations for teachers and administration.
"In good conscience, I can't go against the board and against legal counsel. It's just not good practice," he said during the meeting.
McConnell, however, insisted that the document be signed prior to the vote, stating that a verbal agreement was not sufficient, and that the lawyer did not provide a reason as to why the agreement should not be made.
"If that thing gets voted on, you're sending a message to the teaching staff and to everyone that you don't want us involved. We have a whole year to work on this. I just want something in writing that will tell us that," he said.
After several board members, including the president, concurred with McConnell, Danso signed the document.
The new understanding will include meetings between four members of the teacher's association and four members of the board, and the process by which the new evaluations work will be reviewed by both sides.
"This guarantees that we will be involved with the effects of the policy," McConnell said.
Board president Tony Perrone agreed.
"We can agree to disagree later on down the road, but this will allow us to continue the discussion," he said.
District treasurer Linda Molinaro said she was unable to provide a copy of the policy readings to a Tribune Chronicle reporter by Thursday's deadline.
After the memorandum was signed, the board voted to approve the readings. Board member Lori Hudzik was absent.
"We have to meet with these kinds of situations with understanding, tolerance and reason as we work with our staff," Danso said.
The union represents 190 teachers.