Ann Arbor schools approves employee contracts with 1 percent raise

Standing ovation at Ann Arbor meeting

By Lindsay Knake | lknake@mlive.com
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on June 25, 2015 at 7:05 AM, updated June 25, 2015 at 12:53 PM

Four Ann Arbor Public Schools employee groups will receive a one-time, 1 percent raise in the 2015-2016 school year.

The Board of Education on Wednesday, June 24, voted unanimously to approve the contracts for Ann Arbor Administrators Association, Association of School and Community Services, AFSCME maintenance crew and AFSCME technical support personnel and for three non-bargaining groups, all employees who are not covered in a union or bargaining group.

The raises are off schedule, and the contracts maintain current benefits.

Dave Comsa, the district’s deputy superintendent of human resources and general counsel, said all the groups’ members have ratified the agreements.

The district reached the agreements collaboratively at the table, he said.

Superintendent Jeanice Swift said she’s grateful for the leaders of each group to come to an agreement with the district.

“We appreciate these examples of what can be accomplished,” she said. “This is an important step forward for the Ann Arbor Public Schools. I believe it is a milestone as our district is getting stronger and we are able to just a little bit for our employees.”

Deb Mexicotte, board president, said the raise was from board direction as well as work with the bargaining units to reward employees for their hard work at a time when the board expects to be able to make some small financial adjustment for next year.

Until the various parties begin bargaining, she said, they don’t know what the other side will bring forward.

The district did not release details of the contracts at this time.

Of the district’s seven bargaining groups, four contracts are in place for the 2015-2016 school year.

The agreements come when the Ann Arbor schools administration and Ann Arbor Education Association are in a dispute over the teachers’ contract.

Both the teachers union and the district administration have filed unfair labor practice complaints against each other.

Several hundred people attended the lengthy meeting, and a dozen people spoke during public comment. The majority of speakers asked the board to change its direction and work in partnership with teachers.

Aina Bernier, an Ann Arbor Open teacher, presented a call to action to the board.

“We need to join together and work together and be courageous together,” she said. “We need you, the board, to provide us with bold, brave leadership and refuse to let fear rule our collective actions.”

Read the call to action:

Ann Arbor Education Association President Linda Carter asked the board to see the call to action and revise the regular meetings so all discussion comes during evening hours, honor contract agreements, delay implementing anti-teacher policies and open a dialogue with teachers.

“The AAEA asks the board to stop tonight. It’s not too late to undo some of the damage that’s already been done,” she said to a standing ovation.

Ann Arbor teacher Quinn Strassel said the district’s success hasn’t happened by accident, but because people were willing to stand up and speak about what they think was wrong.

But now, by falling in line with state mandates instead of fighting them, the district now is doing the same thing every other district is doing, he said.

“You have an opportunity to be brave and make a change,” he said.

Dan Rubenstein, a Community High School parent, said he supports the district’s growth strategy of adding programs to attract and retain students, but does not understand why the district needs to disempower teachers.

He asked the board to take steps to regain the trust of the community and teachers through a listen and learn tour and dropping the unfair labor practice charges.

“Collaborate with teachers as partners,” he said to cheers and applause.

Lindsay Knake is the K-12 education reporter for The Ann Arbor News. Follow her on twitter or contact her at 989-372-2498 or lknake@mlive.com. Find all Washtenaw County K-12 education stories on MLive.com.

Original Source: http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/06/ann_arbor_schools_approves_emp.html#incart_river

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