In a show of support, Capac teachers and staff marched their bargaining team leaders to the latest negotiations last Wednesday, Oct. 29. The teachers remain without a contract since August 20 and support staff since June 30. photo by Maria Brown.
November 05, 2008
CAPAC — The school district says times are tough while teachers and staff say they deserve a contract equal to their peers in St. Clair County.
Both parties are standing firm in contract negotiations and as a result, five meetings have been unsuccessful in reaching an agreement.
Contracts with support staff expired on June 30 and a teachers' contract expired on August 20. October 29 was the latest attempt at negotiations and the next scheduled meeting won't come until December.
"We're not looking for the moon," said Colleen Burke, president of the Capac Education Association.
"All we want is a contract that is in line with everyone else in the county and we'll continue to bargain to get that."
Superintendent Jerry Jennex said the administration and school board understand that its employees are "at the heart of its educational programs, but the board also recognizes its responsibility to balance its expenditures with its revenues."
Members of the education association, Capac Support Services Assoc-iation and the Capac Transportation Association are bargaining under the motto, 'Everyone wins when we work as a team.' The district is being heavy-handed, they say, and imposing its proposals after only three negotiations.
As a result, the associations filed an Unfair Labor Practice grievance against Capac Schools. Currently, the teachers and support staff are on the Michigan Education Association's 'Critical List.' The list consists of districts where "efforts to reach a contract stall or where bargaining has been...unproductive" and employees seek assistance from the state association.
Burke confirmed that they are utilizing the help of MEA officials. The school district has secured the help of a Michigan Association of School Board (MASB) staff person. At the center is a mediator from the state of Michigan.
Burke said the staff recognizes the district must be fiscally responsible, and notes the district's fund equity has been on the rise.
"It is also the board's job...to negotiate with its employees, not unilaterally impose your wishes," Burke said as part of a speech she gave at the October school board meeting.
"You can be both fiscally responsible and collaborative now, just as you have successfully done for many, many years in this district."
In the 21 years she's taught in the district, Burke said these negotiations are unprecedented—from the presence of outside mediators to the bright green t-shirts association members don before marching to bargaining sessions. Burke said they plan to make their presence known at upcoming school board meetings. The next one is slated for Nov. 20.
The district says they're ready to keep talking.
"The board will continue to try to work out a contract with its employee groups that provides the best possible opportunity for each of its students to be successful," Jennex said.