John Concannon

To see video clips of this presentation go to:  

John has ties to education from many perspectives.  Not only did he start his career as a middle school teacher, Mr. Concannon served as in-house counsel for Cincinnati Public Schools.  In addition Mr. Concannon has done work for Dayton Public, Loveland, Bethel-Tate, Valley-View and St. Bernard schools.  Furthermore, he has represented a principal’s association, a firefighters’ union and private companies.

Retired since 2002, Mr. Concannon now privately practices law for the firm of Freking & Betz, LLC an “Ohio-based general litigation firm with a particular focus in employment law.”  John is one of 12 lawyers who espouses that they are “Employment lawyers who fight for working people’s rights”. Their team includes paralegals and support staff located in downtown Cincinnati, just a short distance from “The Hill”.

Mr. Concannon has been involved in many negotiations, on the sides of both employers and unions. While in charge of labor relations for Cincinnati Public Schools, he trained in Win-Win negotiation strategies in Boston.  He also has some experience in fact finding.  Although negotiations among different groups can vary, he finds all negotiations require the same knowledge base.  He admits that he has heard and seen just about everything, yet, at its most fundamental, John believes that negotiations are about “doing what’s fair” and acting in a professional, collaborative manner.

In this collaborative spirit, John believes people have to be well-informed on what is going on, avoiding a large-scale rejection of a tentative agreement like we have experienced in the past.  He is not anti-OEA; “I’m not here to trash them or their work”, said Mr. Concannon.  However, he knows Indian Hill through his work with student expulsion hearings and understands that “there are some general strategies in negotiations that just won’t work with the Indian Hill community.”   Mr. Concannon has a professional relationship with Mr. Petrie, the Board’s attorney.  Mr. Concannon thinks Mr. Petrie is a good lawyer and thinks Mr. Petrie would say the same about him.

Mr. Concannon presently continues his teaching and learning at Xavier University.  He teaches school law and recently began teaching school ethics classes for their educational doctoral program.

The following questions were discussed at the April 16th meeting.  Following each question is a summary of the responses from Mr. Concannon.  See the upcoming YouTube video for his actual presentation.

1)  Without OEA, will we lose our liability insurance?  Are we vulnerable to lawsuits now?
This is not an issue -You are no more vulnerable to lawsuits under new representation than you are now with no contract.  The school district has to defend teachers in issues regarding negligence and supervision.  Teachers involved in criminal issues are not covered by the school district or OEA.
2)  Without OEA, will the Board want to renegotiate our entire contract? How can we ensure we will not lose everything we have fought for in our contract?  Does leaving OEA mean we will lose all of our sick days, personal leave, etc.
Just because we change our representation does not automatically mean that we have to start over on our contract.  The Board has less of a reason with a new bargaining unit to change what they have already negotiated and agreed to. John suggests that the new organization keep as much of the tentative agreement as possible.   This can help speed our process and can help preserve the current “givens” in the contract.

Will the whole contract fall apart just because we change our representation?  No.  The contract will not become void just because we change who represents us.  Can the contract change?  Yes.  The contract can change before or after we change representation; if either parties had rejected the suggestions of a fact finder, we would be back to negotiating. Changing representation does not impact our current contract any more or less than staying with an OEA-based contract.  We are free to negotiate as much or as little as we choose.

The school district has to keep school-neutral in our transition period.  They can’t take a side.  The district has to treat groups of independent affiliation and OEA affiliation equally.

3)  What if the Board’s lawyer stalls on purpose just to get more money out of us.  What safe-guards do we have?
The board or lawyer can’t take advantage of us.  We would file a ULP.  There are rules in place to keep this from happening through SERB.

4)  If we run out of money, will we have to pay more during the year?  Will we have to pay more in annual dues?
When we sign up to be members, we could pay in one lump sum ahead of time.   Many people have agreed to front money so we should have a reserve.  John is okay with paying over time.  He often works with people who have been fired.  He is willing to take the gamble.

What are the ramifications/rate fluctuations (dues) for independently organizing vs going with a large national organization?  Will we be more liable to have our annual dues go up?  Right now we are paying $757; we are looking at $400ish for our new organization; this is probably on the high side but will help us build up our reserves.  Only 76% membership now.  Many teachers who had been members of OEA but have dropped their membership have voiced their interest in joining a non-OEA association. More members in the organization can mean less dues per member.  New association will be professional and build inclusion of all members.

5)  Will the school Board take advantage of us without the backing of OEA?  Won’t they give us a worse contract?
John does not see IH Board not going with what they already thought was a good agreement.  Doesn’t see IH changing because we changed representation - does not see a down-side to a new union or organization.

6)  What about the people who retire this year?  If we get a pay increase or steps, will it be retroactive?
Yes, if it is in the new agreement.  This is an important point since STRS relies on highest levels of earnings.

7)  How will teachers fight national issues such as SB5 without OEA?
We did not get a chance to ask this question.  We will pursue an answer in the future.

Here is an example of one independent’s approach to getting involved and keeping up with national and state issues in education.

Example of Akron’s Independent Teacher Organization - includes points about involvement in national issues:

In addition, with a potential $357 savings in annual dues, members are free to invest support in any state and/or national efforts of THEIR CHOICE.

8)  What would happen to our representation if something were to happen to John Concannon?  Is there a backup?
Nothing.  There are additional attorneys at the firm.  Others could fill in, if needed.   Others in the firm are learning the school law component.  Transition to a new lawyer in itself is not necessarily going to trigger the falling apart of the organization any more than getting appointed a new Labor Relations Consultant from OEA.

9) What is your strategy to represent teachers needing assistance?
  • Make sure all processes have been followed
  • Make sure people have been treated fairly
  • Costs the board to fire someone
  • Better for Board to accept a resignation
  • Tries to get people a severance piece

When someone is in trouble and the board is terminating or non-renewing someone,  if the district and Board followed the process, unless there is a non-constitutional basis for decision, nothing can intervene - but if process was not followed, then we can help.  Forming an exit strategy is important. Efforts need to be made to help people keep their license active and valid...

Does have a working relationship with ODE.
10) Mariemont, The Oaks, and Madeira have no labor organization.  Could that happen to us?
  • No.  Law changed in part due to Mariemont’s history
  • Strikes became harder to have based on other safeguards and processes in place through SERB
  • John has seen teachers not join in other places because of conflict between professionalism vs. union/labor views
  • Law states district cannot interfere with teachers who wish to organize and affiliate with a union
  • SERB and ULPs are a part of this to protect those who wish to organize

11) Does OEA go away or will they come back to try to further persuade us to join up?
After the election, their influence is limited as to what they can do to try to get us back.  SERB represents the whole thing to keep things “fair”.

12) If we go with an independent organization, how will our membership’s ideas about our contract be heard/communicated?
We, as a larger group of all members, need lots of discussion on what we want to negotiate.  Maybe a survey; lunch talks.  Dr. Miles and Board are willing to put in time this summer to have a contract when we start next school year whoever is representing us.

John is familiar with the fact finding process if we should need it:
  • List submitted on what have and have not been agreed upon
  • Fact finder hears each side’s case
  • Fact finder can chose one or the other or something in between
  • 60% + 1 have to reject fact finders report/suggestions
  • If both sides agree with the fact finding suggestions then you have a contract

13) Who is responsible for managing our dues/money in an independent organization?
In-house treasurer will be responsible and bonded for organizing money.  Julie Toth cuts a check to Pat Bartholomew who is our current treasurer and it is deposited in our account.  Monthly statements can be sent/shared with entire membership.

On-line by-laws, financial summary, executive meeting minutes, etc. - all communicated to all members, perhaps in a website.

What’s next in our timeline?
  • Phone conference on April 28th with SERB and OEA and School District is a part of the conversation.
  • Next SERB Board meeting is May 15th; voting can be held 10 days after that at the earliest.  That puts us at the end of May.
  • IHEVS Board can’t limit or take sides on who we chose for representation (See above).
How will voting for our future affiliation work?
Abstention from voting does not count as a vote for OEA affiliation
Affiliation will be decided by simple majority of the votes turned in.
Choices on the ballot (as determined by SERB rules) will include:
  • Stay with OEA/NEA affiliation
  • Change to independent (IHEPO - Indian Hill Educator’s Professional Organization)
  • Change to no affiliation (not be recognized as an organized entity)
You can also view these notes at