Board, teachers discuss new contract

Friday, March 20, 2009

Contract negotiations between the teachers and the board of education opened again at a meeting Tuesday.

The same teams that worked on the first-ever negotiated contract for Marshall County's teachers were back at Central Office for the annual review. The three-year contract was agreed just before Christmas last year, but its provisions applied from the start of the 2008-2009 school year. Now the teams are starting work on changes to the contract for the 2009-2010 school year.

Kathy Stapleton, Louis Scheuchenzuber, and Wanda Odum are the Marshall County Education Association's team. Facing them, for the board of education, were Craig Michael, Janet Wiles, and Mitch Byrd.

"Good - we're establishing some chemistry," said Michael, glad that the teams remained the same.

"We haven't ever voted on chief negotiator," Stapleton pointed out. "It might be someone different next time, but I'll start off today."

She went on to state that the MCEA wanted to open two articles: salaries and insurance.

"This is another opportunity to accomplish things together," Stapleton said. "We are putting together a survey for our members, but we know they'll want more money. Economic times being the way they are, what could we accomplish that doesn't cost money?"

The MCEA would still like to see the dollar amount paid for insurance changed to a percentage, and would like to make sense of the principals' and supervisors' pay scales.

Stapleton said her members would also like to have more input on what professional development events they attend, some of which they characterize as a "waste of time" while others are called "great." There have also been a few problems with payroll deductions for MCEA members who joined mid-year, but apart from these, things have gone smoothly, with "little things" getting solved at the school level.

Michael's leading question on the new technology being put into the schools, "What about technical support at the school level?" was greeted with laughter.

"We're trained to be tolerant," said Stapleton. "It's a mammoth job and we keep thinking it'll get better, but I can't teach reading because I can't get to that part of the program. The biggest complaints at MCEA meetings relate to technology: not getting the equipment or not being able to work the programs."

"At Oak Grove we have no technology," said sixth-grade teacher Lori Beardsley. "We had to disable all our computers."

"I have a projector, but no screen," added Scheuchenzuber, who teaches at Marshall County High School.

"The board has requested an update on the roll-out schedule," said Michael. "It may not be going as smooth as Suzanne (Ingram, the technology director) thought. We need more conversations, and we've got to find a way to get someone in each location that can trouble shoot."

"Make no mistake," said Stapleton, "the teachers are appreciative, but we weren't asked what we wanted: everybody is getting the same equipment, but there's different needs at different levels."

"It should be done by the time school's out," said Wiles.

Preliminary budget numbers should be available by mid- to late-April, announced Michael.

"Couldn't we at least start on the non-monetary issues, like mentoring?" asked Stapleton.

The group agreed and set their next two meetings at 3:45 Tuesday, April 7, and the same time on Tuesday, April 21.