"We were lied to."
That's what school district custodian Eugene Beamer told board of education members during last Monday's school board meeting. Specifically, Beamer said local Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) members were told that if voters approved the construction of a new school building, no employees would get laid off.
Yet, Beamer said he's one of 22 employees who were part of a "Reduction In Force (RIF)." The only reason he was removed from that list and has his job back is because another employee resigned, Beamer said.
About 35 local OAPSE members and Willard Education Association (WEA) members attended Monday's board meeting to show their support for their respective unions.
Beamer didn't specify who allegedly "lied" to OAPSE members. After the meeting, superintendent Jeff Ritz said he was the high school principal when campaigning for the new building was under way. The superintendent at the time was David Danhoff. But neither Ritz nor board members, who were on the board when Danhoff led the district, could recall the former superintendent making such a promise.
"Mr. Danhoff never lied to the staff," he said.
Treasurer Cynthia Shoup said the majority of those on the RIF list have been called back. Some people who were laid off were re-offered employment, but may have taken another job or didn't want to be removed from the RIF list, Shoup said.
Rosalie Keesy, a bus driver and president of the local OAPSE, said employees received just a 1 percent raise after more than three months of negotiations with administrators. Keesy referred to that as a "slap in the face."
"We feel disrespected," she said. She added OAPSE employees used to be reimbursed under their deductible, but that's not the case anymore. OAPSE employees have had their contracts frozen and rolled over for at least the last four years, Keesy said.
OAPSE members addressed the board during the public participation portion of the meeting. WEA members also read a prepared statement during that time.
"It is the sincere desire of the Willard Education Association and its negotiating team that as we continue this time of negotiation that we would be able to reach an agreement that is fair and equitable to all parties while maintaining respect and civility. It is also our desire that this task be accomplished in a timely manner so that our focus is our students as we begin the school year."
In other business Monday, Ritz said the condition of the track has been deteriorating. He estimated it would cost $100,000 to bring it back to a suitable condition.
The superintendent said another necessary project involves the football field, since it's never been redone. Turfing the field would cost between $600,000 to $700,000, he said.
Ritz also said it's time to replace music students' uniforms, a project that would represent a "major expense," he added.
A story that included other matters discussed by the Willard school board was published recently in the Norwalk Reflector.