Teachers picket in front of CVMS | RecordCourier.com

Teachers picket in front of CVMS

by Merrie Leininger

Contract negotiations have been at an impasse since December, and the Douglas County teachers have taken their concerns to the streets.

Tuesday afternoon, prior to a special Douglas County School Board meeting at Carson Valley Middle School, about 17 teachers marched along Highway 395 in front of the school with signs that said, “Stop rubber-stamping board,” and “Will teach for food.”

The demonstration was organized by the Douglas County Professional Educators Association, which negotiates on behalf of the teachers with the school district’s personnel director John Soderman.

On Dec. 7, the DCPEA and Soderman met for the last time, and ended with the DCPEA walking out, saying the district was making negotiations impossible.

The district then filed an unfair labor dispute with the state labor board and DCPEA filed a counter claim.

DCPEA President and Douglas High School teacher Marty Cronin said the next step in the process is the DCPEA’s motion to dismiss the district’s unfair labor board dispute March 28.

Cronin said Tuesday he hopes school board members will take notice of the teachers’ concerns.

Cronin said there hasn’t been any positive movement from the district, “And that’s why we feel it is necessary to bring things to this stage. The district has continued to decline a form of reasonable communication, so we feel we have come to the point of political action.”

His wife, Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School teacher Rommy Cronin, said it was a hard decision to participate in the protest.

“I am a big supporter of the district. I have been involved in the strategic plan and the competencies from the very beginning. I believe higher standards are a good thing, but I believe if the school district is going to ask us to make changes, they need to make changes, too. They need to treat teachers with respect,” she said.

Several protesters said the district doesn’t respect the teachers.

Kathy Garcia, a teacher at Jacks Valley Elementary School, said teachers feel they are not respected and that results in low teacher morale.

“I think it is very important elected officials are responsive to the public. I think this board needs to listen to teachers and parents. There are some very important issues in the district that need to be addressed,” Garcia said.

She said there is a lack of communication between teachers and the district administrators and between teachers and board members.

Diane Mitchell, a teacher at C.C. Meneley Elementary School, said she believes there is also a lack of communication between the district and the public.

“I want the public to be asking questions. They are not fully aware of the issues. What we are concerned about is not just salary. We want to be able to get continuing education credit. We want to have remediation because they are going to require us to meet the competencies,” she said.

Toni Gumm, a teacher at CCMES, said it comes down to the students.

“I am here to support the union and just want the school board to listen to teachers for the sake of the children,” she said.

CVMS teacher Karen McGee said the district is ignoring a large population of students.

“I just want to ask why so much money is going to the competencies and vocational education is virtually abolished or dismissed. As a middle school teacher, I see a lot of kids who will not pass the competencies no matter how hard they try or how much remediation we give them,” McGee said. “That doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to the community. We need carpenters, electricians and mechanics. This county does nothing to help those kids. If you can’t do paper and pencil tests, you are considered not competent.”

Kingsbury Middle School teacher Phil Sorensen said he is tired of working without a contract.

“Hopefully, this will put an end to the stalemate. There is lots of money that has not been made available to us. Because the governor decided not to give us any, the district feels they don’t have to, either. I feel our voices have not been heard by the district trustees,” Sorensen said.

School board President Don Forrester stopped by as teachers were getting their signs out. He said, with the exception of salary demands, teachers have valid complaints, but picketing won’t help.

“It’s too bad it comes down to this, but it’s not us who walked out of negotiations. We filed a labor board complaint to force them back into negotiations. We had a strategic planning meeting in late January and there weren’t any teachers there. That’s where we need the input. They should be coming to those meetings, not walking on the street,” Forrester said.

He said he’s sorry there was no money for raises, and hopes the district and the board can work together to convince the Legislature next year to give schools more money.

n Salaries. A teacher without experience and a bachelor’s degree starts at $28,446 before taxes in Douglas County. At the other end, a teacher with 20 years or more of experience and a masters degree plus 32 credits earns $52,224 a year. Teachers with doctorates earn $52,724.

All teachers also receive health, accident insurance and retirement pay. There are 458 teachers in the district.

The teachers’ contracts expired last June 30. Language in the contract and state laws does not allow the teachers to strike. The “evergreen” language calls for all teachers to continue to work under the conditions of the expired contract until a new agreement is made.