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Rochester Educators Push for Contract Settlement

Teachers continue to operate on contract that expired Aug. 15.

Photo Credit: Patch File Photo.
Photo Credit: Patch File Photo.
Educators in the Rochester Community Schools are continuing to push for a satisfactory contract settlement, with its union, the Rochester Education Association (REA), currently bargaining the contract that expired on Aug. 15.

Until a settlement is reached, teachers are continuing to work under the provisions of that contract, including salaries and benefits, district spokeswoman Debra Hartman said.

"The two teams are meeting regularly according to a mutually agreed-upon calendar," she said. "The Board of Education's goal is to come to a mutual labor agreement with the REA that aligns expenses with revenues, is mindful of current economic conditions and preserves educational opportunity for all students."

Literature distributed by the REA, however, indicates Rochester Community Schools is not in a deficit and continues to add money to its fund surplus because Public Act 54 allows school districts to withhold step increases and increases for advanced degrees so long as no agreement is in place. 

According to the Oakland Press, members of the 947-member REA have been picketing and showing unity at school board meetings, with several teachers wearing red shirts at a meeting earlier this month.

REA President Doug Hill told the Oakland Press major issues for educators include salary, benefits and working conditions, but declined to elaborate, stating he won't bargain outside the bargaining table. 
Christian Shephard December 03, 2013 at 06:59 PM
The School Board and HR Director are not showing any respect to the teachers. "Mindful of economic conditions"? This is not 2008! Property values and thus taxes are at Pre-2007 levels. What it comes down to is someone stands to make money via bonus or pay increase if they cut teacher wages and benefits. Teachers give and give and give, yet they are always the targets of pay cuts and benefit concessions. Cuts and concessions never take place at the top. Why? Because the people deciding pay increases and concessions will never chose to cut their own pay and benefits.
Marty Rosalik December 03, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Teachers are not the only ones that are giving up wages and benefits. Lucnh ladies... GONE! Outsourced now several years ago. The REA stood by while their leadership threw the lunch ladies under the bus. But they got "T" shirts. The REA lost about 80 members to that. Bus drivers took a ~25% wage and benefit cut only to be outsourced a couple years later. ~ 35% wage and benefit cut for custodians... same outsourcing fate as the drivers. Top management have taken cuts and in the past some administrators have been reduced. Revenue is flat or in decline and books, buses, heat, light, and everything cost more. Look up the history in RCS from 2000 to present. Asking for concessions sucks but it has to be done.
scl December 03, 2013 at 10:48 PM
Marty, you are often the first to oppose teachers. However the truth is we've gone nowhere or backwards for the past 10 yrs. I make now what I made 4 yrs ago and will soon be lower than that by a few more years. After 28 years in RCS I can say I haven't felt less appreciated I respected inspite of being at the top of the State Test scores. We don't have a premiere district without awesome teachers. I'm looking at a second job now. Not grading at night. I'm not retiring in the next ten years. As it is I'll never be able to afford to retire. Say what you want but schools are nothing without teachers.
lmc December 04, 2013 at 10:35 AM
FYI, the teachers are not the only RCS union working without benefit of contract. The amazing RCS secretaries are also working without a contract and are struggling.
Marty Rosalik December 04, 2013 at 07:48 PM
scl, thank you but please provide some/any evidence on my "opposition to teachers". Your accusation provided my mom with a good laugh. You see in the past ~ 2005 I had been publically accused of being a pawn for the REA/MEA because of my mother's Avondale Education Association MEA representative position. You know the representatives that went to Lansing and worked hard to expose the Mackinac Center type stealth candidates. The representatives that lobbied to get the state not to cut funding. So now I'm on the OTHER side? Good one! I fully understand your feelings regarding lack of respect. I feel like teachers have been under a full scale attack by the one party rule in Lansing, but that's just my opinion. 28 years? So a Top Step? As such you have NOT had a real raise since maybe 2002? Yes your total compensation has gone backwards. As you pay more for your benefits... you lose spendable income. Some still say that’s NOT a pay cut. Same effect. RCS has retired many top steps and replaced them with bottom steps, some years almost 2:1. The new teachers do NOT make as much but the now significant number of them are driving significant year-over-year overall wage increases. The lower steps still get larger automatic increases, do they not? So the pressing issue is. How to attract and KEEP top talent... and... also keep our top senior teachers? I don't have the perfect solution to that. Yes we have a top notch district for anywhere from $3000 to $5000 LESS per pupil funding compared to our Hold Harmless Millage neighbors here in Oakland County. I can't fix that but I did work for those 2000 and 2004 mileages. I took flack for that too but it freed up some general fund money. As for retirement... join the club. The automotive bankruptcies took half my 401k and half my pension. That's my cross to bear not yours. I’m also tired of the “I took one for the team so you have to as well” attitude. But we can’t print money. The district has to keep going.
Megan Trinowski Gaura December 04, 2013 at 09:32 PM
I have never commented on a forum like this. However, I would like to address that many REA members went to school board meetings and even spoke on the behalf of our bus drivers, custodians, and cafeteria workers. We knew their pay cut and out sourcing was unfair and it wasn't supported.
Cheryl Junker December 04, 2013 at 11:34 PM
2014 could not come soon enough! Irreparable damage has occurred in education across this state! We all need to vet our Reps thoroughly to rid Lansing of its ALEC controlled legislature. Voting straight ticket is no longer an option for those who truly care about our teachers and our public school system. I commend our teachers for the job they have done particularly under such duress. They should know that parents appreciate them. There is greater awareness now of the assault on our educational system both at the State level as well as the national level with CC. Teachers and parents need to speak up and educate those who may still be in the dark. Public education is under assault across this country. If we want to preserve the ability to provide quality, objective educational opportunities for our children, we need to step up and vote people into office who truly care!
Dessely Cooper December 05, 2013 at 11:35 AM
While I sympathize with the teachers, my middle schooler in the district has a teacher that does nothing but complain to his students about the contract dispute and his personal problems because of it. I find it inappropriate for this educator do do so he has even gone so far as to get into an argument with a student about it and to the point he brought the student to tears. It is not the student's fault that this is happening so it would be nice if the teachers would keep that in mind and be professionals about this!!!
Unhappy Customer December 05, 2013 at 02:16 PM
Great way to earn respect: attempt to manipulate our children. (And do you really think students are buying this? Do you really think they would argue with your points? I cannot image a fast way to a lower grade, and students are well aware of this.) If you want to be treated like professionals, then act like it, and stop acting like labor. If you want to win our support, then make a logical case. Withholding services and refusing to help will not drive parents to rally around you.
CM December 05, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Unhappy Customer, the only services that are being withheld are services that were being done outside of the contract and on teacher's own time. That is the logical case. Teaching is a profession that is a calling and the many passionate and hard working teachers in our district spend vast amounts of time and effort providing for their students long after they are contractually obligated to. Withholding from these services is one of the only ways of showing just how much extra work is put into the job. The vast majority of teachers in this district are hard working professionals that are simply trying to earn a fair contract and get back to focusing on their work educating the children of Rochester.
Unhappy Customer December 05, 2013 at 05:39 PM
Ahhh.... so it's a hostage situation. Ok, that makes us all feel better. "Dear School Board: Please give the union whatever they want, or they will allow my child to fail this semester. Thank you."
Christian Shephard December 05, 2013 at 08:45 PM
Please do not respond to Unhappy Customer. It's clearly a waste of time. They are clearly missing the point!
Unhappy Customer December 05, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Yeah, it is certainly easy to view this as some philosophical sparring point when it is not your kid who is being denied college recommendation letters, or it's not your kid whose GPA will take a permanent hit.
Marty Rosalik December 05, 2013 at 11:32 PM
An anonymous person commenting here brings a FALSE hypothetical charge about grades and recommendation letters. For the record I am using my real name. For the record unhappy this difficult negotiation is NOT the first since MY children started RSC schools. For the record it is the THIRD and now MOST difficult contract. For everybody! Historical Fact, my oldest was Valedictorian and is doing fantastic in the Honors College at U-of-M. Fact my current student is straight A’s. Historical Fact, their teachers have demonstrated the utmost professionalism throughout a DECADE of difficult contract negotiations. My students are thriving because as a parent I chose to work WITH the teachers. Do you know any of the first names of ANYof your kid’s teachers? Do you know where those teachers got their degrees? Do you know the ones who are just starting their own families with little ones keeping them up at night? Do you know the ones who live in and send their children to RCS schools? How many parent teacher conferences have you attended? All of them like me? How many hours have you spent as an in-classroom volunteer? Every comment here by “unhappy” is B.S. and needs to be called out as such! If my kids can thrive, so can yours.
Unhappy Customer December 05, 2013 at 11:53 PM
Spare me the sanctimony. The government teachers at Adams are arbitrarily and suddenly changing their grading practices, which WILL lower grades. Going from and "A" to an "A-" would kill valedictorian chances for someone (if the board had not already killed that recognition program). Go look at the silly Facebook page some impressionable and naive kid just put up about this nonsense, and read about recommendation letters. Finally, consuming classroom time to use our kids as pawns? Yeah, real professional. Your lovefest with the school is clouding your judgement. And anonymity is necessary here in order to protect our kids against retribution. Sorry if it offends you.
Christian Shephard December 06, 2013 at 01:05 PM
Here's an idea: address your alleged issues with the teacher and school administrators. And, IF these allegations are true, I am certain they will be addressed! Nothing like painting the whole REA group as bad based on the alleged actions of one person. The REA educators I know, put in 12 hour days, work weekends, work over vacations and breaks, give away their personal/family time because they are dedicated to the children they teach. Show some appreciation! This lack of fair/insulting bargaining is an insult to the teachers, plain and simple.
Henry Schultz December 09, 2013 at 03:07 PM
Hello, I have been a teacher in Rochester schools for twenty years and both my children are going through our schools. I am very proud to be a member of this community. I don't expect everyone to agree with the expectations that teachers have for a fair contract. I know that public employees are often praised, then expected to quietly accept work conditions they deem as unfair for the benefit of the society as a whole. That is the way of the world we live in. However, our community should pay attention to the current situation in our schools. As Mr. Rosalik said, we have gone through a decade of difficult negotiations, even being without a contract for over a year, but this is the first time teachers have taken some of the actions you are currently witnessing. Why the change? We feel disrespected. Insulted by what the board of education is trying to take from us. We have no choice but to fight for our livelihood. I can't go anywhere else. My master's degree in special education/social science does not allow me to search for another field. Even if I was the best teacher in Rochester, number one of 947, there isn't a district in the state that would pay me more than entry level ($38,000 in Rochester). So, we stand up for what we believe in. It may be an inconvenience to you and your children but for my family and my self respect we will do what is necessary.
Unhappy Customer December 10, 2013 at 02:51 PM
Hyperbole, of course, but the disregard for "civilian causalities" (in this case our children) sounds very much like it came straight from Hezbollah. In terms of dollars, what amount exactly is causing this outrage; this need to "fight for your livelihood"? What are they "taking" from you? What exactly is it that you believe in? Is the board pushing for cuts you don't want to accept? Or are you pushing for what you believe are long overdue raises? Does this represent $50 per month? Or $500 per month? And you can thank your union for the lack of mobility. It is not the district that objects to hiring experienced teachers. It is the union that objects to a new teacher starting out with a higher salary than one that has been working for in the district for a number of years. It doesn't matter if they have been teaching elsewhere for 20 years. And it doesn't matter if you are number 1 of 947, or number 947 of 947; the system YOU have approved demands that time served in the same district is the ultimate factory in your pay.
Henry Schultz December 11, 2013 at 11:55 AM
I have no idea what your Hezbollah reference is about. You could not be more wrong about districts hiring experienced teachers. They don't want to pay above starting wages which eliminates our mobility. This is not new or uncommon information and is definitely not union driven.
K. Scott December 11, 2013 at 07:02 PM
The best news is that this guy isn't a teacher, praise God.
Cheryl Junker December 12, 2013 at 11:23 AM
Two billion dollars in cuts to education has consequences! Fifty five schools in the red as of this summer, Albion High closed, Inkster district dissolved, and the EAA poised to take over more schools. While our district is put in a precarious position with regards to negotiations as all districts are under fire, the game was set up at the State level and is ongoing. At some point you are going to see pushback. And while I am dissappointed that the teachers are not available for extra help and have closed their doors, I am in complete support of their opposition to this state imposed austerity and to the ultimate privatization mindset which has beset Lansing. Frankly, I am surprised there are no strikes. In discussing the situation with my daughters, I let them know that I support standing up for your beliefs. What the teachers are fighting for goes beyond their livelihood. They are fighting for Michigan Public Schools. Our district is not sheltered from the EAA and Lansing's blackmailing methodology. We are all targets! It's time to speak up!

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