Michael resigns from negotiation team

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Resignation of the lead negotiator for the board of education may slow down agreement between the board and the Marshall County Education Association, which represents the teachers.

Craig Michael, who led the negotiations with MCEA from late October until the first-ever negotiated contract was agreed just before Christmas, resigned from negotiating team at last week's school board meeting.

Michael thanked the school board for their trust and confidence in making him chief negotiator.

"I'm proud of the relationship that has been developed with MCEA," he said, "but I'm troubled by reports of criticism of individual school board members at director/staff meetings. Open criticism does not facilitate a cohesive organization and it's not possible for me to continue as chief negotiator in this atmosphere. Therefore the board needs to name another."

When school board chairwoman Ann Tears was asked after the meeting how the board would choose a new lead negotiator, she replied, "I have no clue."

"I really don't know what the plan is," admitted budget director Janet Wiles on Tuesday morning. Wiles, along with human resources director Mitchell Byrd, worked with Michael at all the negotiating sessions.

"We need to find out exactly what needs to be done," said Wiles.

When Stan Curtis, director of schools, was asked about replacing Michael, he said, "That's a good question!"

"I have no idea what we're going to do," said Curtis. "I will have to talk to the board and also call our attorney to see if we're handling it correctly. I want to get input from the Board as to the direction they want to go."

A negotiating session is scheduled for Thursday this week, but at press time it was not known whether this would take place.

Louis Scheuchenzuber, a member of MCEA's negotiating team wrote in an e-mail,

"I was saddened by the news of Craig Michael's resignation as chief negotiator. Craig was a tough negotiator, but a man with a high set of ethics. He had tremendous knowledge of the school system and always came to the negotiating table exceptionally well prepared. It will be very difficult for the Board to replace him."

In other new business at last week's school board meeting, Curtis was asked by board member Mark Wilkerson if he had rectified the graduation situation.

"Yes," said Curtis. "We got it done at the principals' meeting. I'd like everyone to know that the seniors who graduated in December can go to the prom and walk across the stage with their class."

Next month's school board meeting has been set for 6 p.m. Thursday, May 21, so as not to conflict with the Cornersville High School graduation on May 14. The valedictorians and salutatorians of all three high schools will be honored at that meeting.