2018-12-06 / Front Page

G-L teachers reject contract

By Amy Hubbell
of the Enterprise staff

A state mediator may be brought in to help the Glen Lake Board of Education and the teacher’s union come to a contract agreement.

Some 45 staff members gathered last Thursday night in Maple City to discuss the loss of more than 19 staff members in the past two years — including the food service director, elementary principal and a janitor in the past two weeks.

This, on the heels of the Glen Lake Federation of Teachers’ rejection of a tentative contract which, according to the Board of Education, would have provided an average of $15,000 in additional compensation to the district’s 52 teachers.

“We’re not in a good place as a school,” Superintendent Sander Scott said.

The school board Nov. 15 offered the GLFT a three-year package that, when combined with available merit incentives, provided the district’s 52 teachers with more than $800,000 in additional wages, benefits, and financial incentives.

“After nearly 11 months of negotiations, the board was delighted when the GLFT’s representative notified the board tat proposal was acceptable and he would bring the proposal to a vote as son as possible,” according to a press release issued last Thursday.

However, Scott said he believes the deal was scuttled over the discipline of a teacher and that when staff has left, they have not been replaced.

“There were a number of employee issues that had to be dealt with,” the superintendent said. “I think (the teachers) perceived it as a shot across the bow.”

Gary Wellnitz, northern Michigan representative for the Michigan Federation of Teachers said, that may be the case.

“You never know what will happen when you take a vote,” he said. “But (the discipline) could be seen as another indication of a lack of respect by the board.”

Distrust of the school board and administration was reflected in the discussion at last week’s community meeting where three issues were raised.

 Fear of retribution from the administration with all department personnel.

 A dramatic change in the school’s culture.

 Lack of consistent direction from the administration and the board.

This is a continuance of concerns expressed by more than a dozen teachers and parents at the board’s September meeting.

Initially, the school board proposed a 3-year contract with a 1-percent raise this year, a .75 percent raise for the 2019-20 and a one-half percent raise in 2020-21.

This was rejected.

In addition to salary issues, union members were opposed to:

 Once a week staff meetings without additional compensation.

 Elimination of a district-funded “sick bank” which provides teachers additional pad leave once all paid leave has been exhausted. Instead, the teachers would fund the benefit, which is customary throughout the region.

Also opposed was a proposal that if federal Impact Aid falls below $3 million at any point in the contract, the staff would revert to the pay rate of 2011-18.

Wellnitz said union members think it’s a waste of money to bring in a mediator as a 2-year counter offer was made.

“The ball’s in the board’s court now,”he said.

For his part, Scott said he’s been doing some soul-searching.

“I’ve been reflecting on what I need to do better,” he said. “I can see why not replacing some of the staff would be concerning.

“I’m smarter than that.”

The superintendent said there needs to be more and better communication between staff and administration.

This week, he met with teachers and agreed to pay them extra to hold staff meeting to improve communication.

Scott also suggested that a community forum should be held outside the structure of a normal board meeting where people can share ideas.

“We’ve got to work better as a team and the only way to do this is to communicate,” Scott said.

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