Maple teachers, board reach agreementThe Maple School Board and district teachers are once again on good footing, but it took and few tense months of negotiations and uncertainty to get there.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The Maple School Board and district teachers are once again on good footing, but it took and few tense months of negotiations and uncertainty to get there.
“We got a contract extension — and that’s what we wanted — so we’re pleased,” said Sandra Thornton, president of the Maple Federation of Teachers, Local 1293. “We bought ourselves a year.”
The board and the teachers’ union agreed to a contract extension June 28 that preserves union members rights but allows the district to hand off part of its anticipated revenue shortfall to employees by asking them to pay more toward their health insurance and retirement costs.
The Maple school district faces an estimated $900,000 revenue reduction for the 2011-12 school year, and district finances are not expected to improve for 2012-13.
The deep cuts, coupled with Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, left the district scrambling for options this spring, but Thornton said every indication has shown her the School Board is open and willing to work with the teachers’ union to trim expenses as needed in the future.
“I think the lines of communication with the School Board are stronger than ever,” Thornton said.
The Maple school district, long known for its high academic standards, was swept up in the turmoil of Madison this spring.
The first fallout from the state capital came in February, when district employees received preliminary consideration of non-renewal notices.
The move came as a surprise to employees, who worried about the future of their jobs, but superintendent Gregg Lundberg said it was a necessary response to Walker’s budget repair bill. A provision in that legislation would have forced school districts to provide preliminary layoff notices to employees by Feb. 28, as required by state law.
By eliminating positions through attrition the Maple school district managed to avoid layoffs, but teachers continued to worry about their job security as they worked to negotiate a contract extension.
Over the next few months, that uncertainty created to a stressful atmosphere, which came to a boil last month at the Maple School Board’s regular meeting.
More than a dozen community members spoke at the meeting, urging the board to support the teachers and put forth a fair contract proposal. Rumors had circulated that teachers would lose their prep time, maternity leave and sick leave, but none of those worries came to fruition.
The contract approved on June 28 requires union members to pay a larger portion of their health insurance and Wisconsin Retirement System costs. Salaries won’t increase in 2011-12 either.
The new contract remains in effect until June 30, 2012.