MEA members resign extra duties

Members of the Montrose Education Association hand in resignations from non-teaching duties, effective Sept. 5 if a contract is not settled. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

Members of the Montrose Education Association hand in resignations from non-teaching duties, effective Sept. 5 if a contract is not settled. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

Members of the Montrose Education Association issued an ultimatum to the school board at Monday night’s meeting.
If a contract is not reached by Sept. 5, teachers’ union members will resign from any paid or unpaid position bargained within their contract but is not considered part of their teaching schedule. Those positions include class advisors, club advisors, graduation project coordinator, National Honor Society, etc.
The teachers have been without an updated contract for nearly two years. The MEA went on strike on March 29, 2016 that lasted about 10 days.
However, MEA members employed as coaches by the district are separate from the existing contract.
Near the end of the contentious meeting, with back and forth between the board and union members, MEA President Teri Evans announced, “Effective September 5, 2017, the 120 proud and loyal members of the Montrose Education Association will resign and no longer perform any paid/unpaid non-teaching duties within our school buildings. These duties include, but are not limited to: Class Advisors, Homework Club, Student Council, SADD, Yearbook, Peer Mediation, National Honor Society, Ski Club, Department Heads, Geocaching, Computer Fair, FBLA, After School Detention, Chaperones, Ticket sellers, Timers, Scorers, Officials, Homebound, Adult Evening classes, Summer School, and Saturday detention.”
Evans continued, “…given the acrimonious relationship between our school board and the professional staff and the ongoing regressive discussions, we cannot in good faith to my colleagues or my professionalism continue in this position.
Following Evans statement, School Director Paul Adams said, “That’s disappointing.”
Superintendent Carol Boyce asked if it was a group resignation or if individual letters would be submitted to the district.
With that question, a line of MEA members streamed to the board table with resignation letters in hand.
“I hope by Sept. 5 we can reach an agreement,” Evans said.
A motion regarding extending the compensation plan for Act 93 administrative positions retroactively to July 1 was tabled until the September board meeting.
But questions on the topic were brought up in the work session from MEA member Todd Legg. He questioned whether a raise for administrators was part of the consideration.
“We’ll sit for two years with zero percent. We get a freeze but everyone else gets extended,” Legg commented.
School director Madeline Arnold said, “It’s my understanding (the district) offered teachers’ raises.”
School director Gloria Smith said teachers had gone two years because the board and union could not reach a contract agreement.
Evans first comments of the evening focused on the toll on morale in the district and said MEA had, as of Monday, been without a contract for 713 days. She also maintained that the lack of a contract was costing the district over $1,700 each day.
“The payroll is less today than when (the contract) expired,” Evans said. She also noted that the district has received about $2 million in health care insurance rebates over the past several years, and claimed that money was not made public at board meetings.
“We asked for additional money and were told no,” she said. “We believe a contract is within reach but only if (the district) is willing to negotiate and not dictate.”
Evans said the funds received with the past health insurance rebates were “more than enough” to settle the contract and urged the district to use those funds for the contract “so parents, students and the community can move forward.”
Evans’ statement was met with a round of applause from the audience.
School director Richard Jordan responded to the questions raised by the MEA president by asking if members of the public in attendance at the meeting were related to teachers, or came in response to an MEA advertisement.
Jordan explained the district would realize a one-time only savings of $600,000 if the health care proposal was adopted. He noted the arbitrator discussion of the proposal.
The district did receive a rebate from the health care consortium of about $1.1 million; Jordan also said the pension fund is “vastly underfunded” and the district has to make up that costs.
He also said the district’s fund balance is funded below the level the state would prefer.
At the meeting, the board voted to channel over $800,000 it received to curriculum revision efforts. Board members explained that would not be a one-year expenditure but the money would be earmarked for curriculum over the next several years.
Adams said the funds could also be utilized elsewhere if needed.
Jordan said, “There is some expectation that attritional savings belong to the union.”
The school director -also a member of the negotiation team – said the union leaders were at every board meeting asking for more money. But, Jordan said, there are others with needs to consider as well. “There are also the needs of students, the district as a whole, and taxpayers,” he said. “The union is only one stakeholder.”
Board members also brought up the teachers’ health care plan which costs about $2,162 with the “entire deductible.”
“How many in the community can have the opportunity to pay so little, make the money (the teachers) do; and have a define benefit plan?” Jordan asked.
He also said the district has offered to hold negotiations in public but that the “union showed no interest.”
Evans said the request for public negotiations has never formally been made to the MEA.
“A substantial amount of money arrived in district coffers on April 19 and the MASD wanted to keep it hidden. Four months later, the MASD has no idea what to do with it–just so long as not one more penny is offered to the teaching professionals,” Evans said.
Adams said the divisiveness and tenor of the discussion was moving the parties “further and further away.”
As chair of the finance committee, Adams warned against using the one-time savings to fund recurring debt. “It’s bad practice,” he said. “We can’t keep kicking operating deficits down the road.”
Franklin Twp. resident Krista Naylor called the negativity in the room “disheartening” and called out both the district and MEA for “misinformation” to the public.
She said teachers have a huge value in the community and in the lives of her children.
But I know my pocket can not take any more of an impact,” she said. “My concern is the impact on my children and the talk of strike.”
“We need proper information,” Naylor said adding that the jobs of the teachers and the board are not easy and said she supported public negotiations.
The next contract negotiation meeting is scheduled to be held on Aug. 23.

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