(Editor’s Note: The following information was provided by the Vinton Local Teachers Association regarding its unresolved contract negotiations with the Vinton County Local School District.)

The Vinton Local Teachers Association (VLTA) continues to bargain in good faith to reach a contract agreement that would allow Vinton County Local Schools educators to continue delivering the best education possible to the students of the district and looks forward to returning to the bargaining table as soon as possible.

District leaders informed VLTA leadership on Monday afternoon, May 9 that the Board is willing to set a new date to resume negotiations.

“Coming to a fair agreement in these contract negotiations is imperative if we want to attract and keep high-quality, experienced educators in the classroom with our kids. The district must invest in its workforce; Vinton County students are worth it,” said VLTA spokesperson Michele Royster, a lifelong Vinton County resident and 32-year employee of Vinton County Local Schools.

According to information provided by the VLTA, at the end of fiscal year 2021, VC schools had $23 million in reserve; this is more than three times the amount that the Ohio Department of Education recommends in relation to the school’s yearly budget. That $23 million does not include COVID relief money. The vast majority of the school district’s funding comes from the state and federal governments. Since 2013, the Board has been adding to their coffers by an average $900,000 dollars a year.

“This yearly gain means that they have the financial ability to put Vinton County’s salaries on par with the surrounding school districts,” says Royster. “Many teachers could make over $10,000 dollars a year more by going to these neighboring districts. We love our students and work hard to deliver the high-quality education they deserve. We are simply asking the district to meet us in the middle on the reasonable proposals we have put forth.”

VLTA, which represents 142 educators across five school buildings in Vinton County, stands ready to return to the bargaining table whenever the district’s team is ready, and VLTA members remain hopeful a contract can be agreed upon soon. The current contract expires June 30, 2022.

“We are dedicated professionals who believe in the enormous potential of our students and strive always to create the learning environments they need to thrive,” Royster said on behalf of the union.

The $23,069,575 the Vinton County School District reportedly has in its reserves compares to $8,768,506 for Wellston City Schools, $7,600,401 for Logan-Hocking, $13,202,771 for Southeastern, and $7,052,935 for Alexander. According to information from the VLTA from early May, Vinton County’s teachers make six percent less than the average teacher in Ohio, while the district’s administrators make the same as an average administrator in the state.

Vinton County Local Schools Superintendent Rick Brooks issued the following statement to The Telegram in response to the situation with the VLTA.

“We are currently negotiating with the Vinton County Local Teachers Association. Our Master Agreement with the Association specifically states that all releases to the news media during negotiations shall be mutually agreed upon before release. We are abiding by our contractual and legal obligations and will continue to do so throughout the process. Therefore, we cannot comment on negotiations.”