Teachers take aim at Niles school boardPublished 9:10pm Monday, May 21, 2012
Susan Moore is leaving her job as a first-grade teacher at Ballard Elementary School in Niles at the end of the year.
She told the school board Monday night she will teach again, just not in the Niles School district.
Moore accused the board of blaming teachers for the perceived financial situation of the district and, in the process, alienating and losing the trust of the teaching staff. She also accused the district of creating a district of “haves and have-nots” by promoting and supporting new programs at the cost of others.
“Your actions have personally saddened and embarrassed me as a professional,” said Moore, who was one of four teachers who spoke during the public comment portion of Monday’s board meeting, which comes in the middle of long-standing and heated contract negotiations between Niles teachers’ union and the district.
The district is asking teachers to take about an 8 percent cut in pay along with changes in insurance to help resolve a projected deficit. Supporters of the teachers’ union say the district is exaggerating its dire financial situation.
Niles teacher Terry Merica said she would lose 29 percent of her annual income if teachers were to accept the board’s last offer, causing her to stop supporting many community organizations.
“Your proposed cuts will force me to find a supplemental job to support my son and myself,” she said.
Board member Dana Daniels questioned the accuracy of Merica’s claim she would lose 29 percent of her income.
“I would like to see the math on that. It is not a correct statement,” Daniels said.
Merica also took exception to the district’s spending $80,000 on a lawyer to represent it during contract negotiations.
“$80,000 would buy at least 160 iPads, 200 laptops … the list is endless,” Merica said.
Southside teacher Sally Irons said she has spent more than $1,600 of her personal money in the past three years to support her classroom.
“With the over $11,000 paycut, I won’t be able to do that,” she said.
About 75 teachers dressed in black gathered outside the Westside Administration Building prior to the board meeting. Led by Joe Washington, the director of Michigan Education Association Uniserve, the teachers chanted in unison “that’s not right,” and “enough is enough.”
Washington said the black outfits reflect the mood of contract negotiations, which head to fact finding June 25.
“As people attend funerals and mourn, they put on black, and that’s what we are doing,” he said of contract negotiations that have been ongoing for more than a year.
According to district budget projections, the district will go into deficit sometime in the 2013-14 school year, if nothing changes.
The district argues teachers are unwilling to make cuts necessary in order to resolve the deficit. The teachers proposed a 0 percent paycut in their last offer to the board, although they say changes in insurance would save the district between $181,000 and $693,000. Those numbers have been disputed by the district.