MEDINA, Ohio - Hundreds of Medina school teachers approved a new contract that calls for a salary freeze and a raise in insurance costs, according to John Leatherman, president of the Medina City Teachers Association.
The union, which represents 407 teachers, said votes were cast at all of the school buildings on Wednesday and news that the teachers accepted the deal was announced at 4:30 p.m.
"I am excited to let you know that it did pass and I hope the community appreciates that and we can maybe move forward," Leatherman said.
According to Leatherman, longevity or step pay increases remain in the contract, but teachers were asked to accept a salary freeze for two years. He also said teachers would pay more towards their health insurance, jumping from 17.5 percent to 20 percent.
Leatherman said if the contract had been rejected, the union would have returned to federal mediation.
The teachers' vote comes a week after controversy erupted over an $83,000-bonus that was paid to Superintendent Randy Stepp as part of his new, five-year contract.
Facing tremendous pressure from the union and parents, Stepp announced he will pay back the bonus. He also said he'll give up merit raises that could total up to $36,000.
"People want to know exactly how and when the bonus will be paid back. I didn't get an answer on that," Leatherman told NewsChannel5.
The cash-strapped district, which has dealt with several recent levy failures, is seeking a 5.9-mill levy on the May ballot.
Union officials said cuts in recent years have resulted in a 25 percent reduction in teaching staff and a reduction in art, music programs and physical education.
School board member Susan Vlcek said if the levy fails, the district would have to consider making further cuts that could include more staff reductions, reducing the school day and building reconfigurations for the 2014-2015 school year.
Vlcek said cuts would not be made for the 2013-2014 school year.
"Our intention is to move this district forward, whatever that takes, and we hit lots of challenges along the way, but we intend to keep working together and with good leadership, I think we can lead us in the right direction," Vlcek said.
Twin brothers, Andrew and Wesley Laub, who are juniors at Medina High School, both said they hope voters approve the levy, but they're worried.
"I really like the teachers here and I'd hate to see some of them go. These are some of the best teachers I've ever met here at Medina High School," Wesley said.