MAPS teachers boycott school board meeting in solidarity due to lack of contracts

Dozens of teachers boycotted the Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education Meeting Monday night to honor those teachers retiring and show solidarity against the board.  Retiring teachers were set to be honored at board’s meeting tonight–and they were, but teachers were not present.

According to Marquette Area Education Association lead negotiator Fred Cole, those teachers did not feel recognized by the school board due to the continuing lack of contracts and raises.

“To retire, you take the average three years highest compensation and that’s how your pension is based.  Most of them have gone backwards for several years,” Cole said.  “They (the retirees) felt hurt by the school board and didn’t feel very recognized.”

“(The reception) is a moment of solidarity for them and their union and they wanted to host their own recognition for those folks, and again I wish them the best.  That’s great that they’re going ahead and having that,” MAPS Superintendent Bill Saunders said.

“(The reception) is more for a feeling of solidarity amongst the teachers and the retiring teachers, and how the school board wants to take it, that’s up to the school board,” Cole said.

The unions and the board have been in contract negotiations for over a year now, and although they appear to be getting closer to a solution, there are still a few issues that need to be worked out.

“It’s been a long year and it’s rough working without a contract, and we’ve made a lot of concessions and good offers, but there seems to be a real agenda to do away with the steps,” Cole said.  “At the last (negotiation) meeting we were actually—out of a total expense compensation of $16.5 million—we were about $100,000 apart, but they (the board) don’t want to meet us and we’ve come a long way in their direction but they don’t want to come ours.”

“It’s not really about the steps and lanes, we’ve proposed lanes all along but it’s really about the steps and percentages,” Saunders said.  “Although we’re offering salary increases, you know is it enough of a salary increase?  So really (we’re) trying to meet in the middle there from what they’re (the teachers) are asking and what the board is proposing.”

Saunders added the board is working hard to come up with a deal with the teachers, but a new negotiation session is not scheduled yet.