To the Editor:

Three Board of Education (BOE) members (Hawthorn, Moore, and Solch) are up for re-election. Controversy from new candidates is questioning board members’ intentions and integrity. I am tremendously disappointed by the untruthful accusations occurring in social media and rumors. Lies and/or half-truths have no place in the administration of Bethel Schools.

An Aug. 18 Bethel Education Association (BEA) Facebook post states, “The Board just doesn’t get it. This isn’t about salary increases. It’s a matter of equality. When new teachers are hired and make $12,000 more than veteran teachers with the same training and experience, that isn’t fair.” The last contract had a legal issue. Contract language developed jointly by the BEA and BOE did not legally accomplish what both parties intended — to keep salaries of newly hired teachers comparable with existing teachers. The BEA forced costly arbitration that was unsuccessful — however, the BEA will still not admit equal responsibility.

Rumors say Bethel teachers are poorly compensated. An Aug. 18 BEA Facebook post states, “… having had a salary freeze for the last six years, a teacher with just a Bachelor’s degree having taught at Bethel for six years may be tempted to drive up the road to Tipp City Schools and make $7,758 more… ” Bethel teacher’s received a 9.3 percent raise over the last three years! Ohio Education Association data (2015/16) shows Bethel salaries compared favorably with 111 similar schools. Bethel teachers’ salaries were higher than the 111 school average . Also, Bethel’s starting salary for a Bachelor of Art’s Degree teacher with no experience ($ 39,039) was almost the highest among the 111 schools! Don’t these facts contradict social media posts and rumors saying Bethel teachers are not fairly compensated?

An Aug. 18 BEA Facebook post states, “… the Bethel Education Association (BEA) soundly and unanimously rejected the Bethel Board of Education’s latest salary offer. The overwhelming reason for this rejection was the “contingency increase” clause… ” This refers to a BOE stipulation of no raise in the third contract year if new money had not been obtained. The BEA declared a negotiation impasse and Bethel is in federal mediation over the issues described above.

Despite accusations, Bethel made huge improvements in security during the last year installing new secure entrances, security and fire alarm systems. Insinuations Bethel does not conduct legal public meetings are also false — website and media notifications fulfill legal requirements.

After 12 years as a BOE member with thousands of hours representing residents, I cannot be silent when false and/or misleading information is distributed. In the face of controversy, I remind myself about my reason for becoming a board member — “that it’s all about our children.”

Respectfully,

— Joseph G. Solch

Bethel Local Schools Board of Education member