Carmel Clay Schools teachers could vote to decertify union
By Ann Marie Shambaugh
A group of Carmel Clay Schools teachers is attempting to give district educators a vote on whether or not they’d like a change in union representation.
The Carmel Teachers’ Association has petitioned the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board to allow CCS teachers to decide if they’d like to continue to be represented by the Carmel Clay Education Association or decertify it to allow CTA to become their exclusive representative.
Pete O’Hara, a social studies teacher at Carmel High School, is among those leading the charge to decertify CCEA. He said that many CCS teachers are frustrated with CCEA taking contract negotiations to a state-appointed fact finder, the final stage of IEERB mediation, in three of the past four years. Each time the fact finder ruled against CCEA, which resulted in teachers making less money than they could have if the two sides had reached an agreement earlier.
“You can accept losses for a while, but at some point you need to look at the process,” O’Hara said. “We thought that we might be able to create an atmosphere of cooperation with CCS, and we might be able to negotiate contracts within the law that were better for teachers.”
CCEA President Brian Lyday, a fifth-grade teacher at Towne Meadow Elementary, said while neither his organization nor the school board seem “pleased with the process that takes away the local community’s control of their schools,” through it his organization has become better prepared to handle the negotiation process and involve its members.
“CCEA has put into place several tools that will enable teachers to participate more in the process, almost in real time,” Lyday said. “Information can now be distributed to and received from mobile devices, as well as a ratification process that can be done electronically in a secure manner. This should give all 950 teachers not only a vote, but access to the process.”
IEERB required the signatures of at least 20 percent of CCS teachers to consider the petition. O’Hara said they got many more than that, and that support has continued to grow. At least 51 percent of all teachers would need to vote to decertify and replace CCEA in order for it to happen.
“We think we have a lot of support,” O’Hara said. “We feel pretty good about it.”
O’Hara said a group of teachers has been working for approximately three years to create a group to replace CCEA. Most – including himself – are former members of CCEA, and many of them have previous experience with bargaining or negotiations, he said.
O’Hara said he joined CCEA when he started working for the district 17 years ago but dropped his membership in recent years as the cost increased. The CCEA charges $52 annually in dues, but its members also join the Indiana State Teachers Association and National Educators Association, whose dues are $519 and $187, respectively, Lyday said.
O’Hara said CTA dues would be approximately $100 and would likely decrease over time. CTA membership would not require automatic membership in other educators’ organizations, but teachers could choose to join them individually.
“With the collective efforts of teachers through ISTA and NEA, CCEA is the local association that can best promote diversified educational experiences for the children of Carmel, provide the widest base of professional development, promote the professionalism demonstrated daily by our teachers, and represent teachers in the most comprehensive manner,” Lyday said.
Bargaining for the next CCS teachers’ contract is on hold until the IEERB reaches a decision on whether or not a vote will take place, which could happen at any time.
The mediation process
State law allows school districts and its exclusive representatives to formally bargain between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30. If they can’t reach an agreement and ratify a contract by Oct. 2, the IEERB will assign a mediator to work with the two sides for 30 days.
If the district and union can’t reach an agreement in 30 days, both sides submit a last, best offer. An IEERB-appointed fact finder will review the offers and select one of them to become the collective bargaining agreement.
Since the state developed the fact finding process in 2011, Carmel is the only district to have taken collective bargaining to that level more than one time.