CUYAHOGA FALLS -- By a 3-2 vote, the city school district's Board of Education opted not to have any of its members sit at the negotiating table with the district's three bargaining units for contract talks.
The Board passed a motion Jan. 18 to have no board representatives on the team for the 2017 negotiating cycle.
The School Board was represented at the bargaining table by two of its members during the last two rounds of negotiations, said Board Member Barbara Gunter. Since the last round the makeup of the Board has changed, Gunter said, and now it must decide if it wants to continue to have a representative on the negotiating team for the district or "let the superintendent do his job on his own."
Board Member David Martin said, "I think as Board members we could make suggestions on things we might wish to see in various contracts, but I don't think Board members should be involved in the negotiating process until whatever potential agreements are brought forth."
Board Member Patrice White said she would have to recuse herself from taking part in negotiations because she is a former vice president of the local teachers' union when she was a teacher. White added she agreed with Martin and noted when she represented the teachers' bargaining unit there was no School Board member involved in negotiating.
"I don't think that's necessary as long as we are getting feedback and updates," White said.
Board President Karen Schofield said she doesn't doubt Superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols can represent the Board on his own, and she also said she believes sometimes having a board member "right there is advantageous."
Gunter said she had "no interest" in representing the Board in negotiations, adding, "I feel strongly this particular year there should be no Board representation I think the makeup of the Board pretty much sets that rule that no one should sit on it."
Board Member Kathy Moffet said the School Board has had "dynamics throughout its history and I don't believe the dynamics of this Board should change representation."
In addition to White, Moffet and Schofield are both former teachers. Schofield was also a principal and an administrator.
"Having any of them on the team would be like the teachers negotiating their own contract," Gunter later told the Falls News-Press. "And negotiating for the Board is in the superintendent's job description."
No one but Schofield expressed a willingness to represent the Board. Schofield said, however, she would not represent the Board if it did not want to be represented by one of its members. The vote to not have any Board representatives at the table was 3-2: Gunter, Martin and White voting in favor; Schofield and Moffet voting against.