Still no contract for Dist. 15 teachers

As the suburban sprawl creeps into St. Francis, teachers are asking the school board for metro wages.

Independent School District No. 15 and the Education Minnesota St. Francis Union have been at odds for the entire school year, failing to reach a contract agreement. The main disagreement concerns the amount to increase teacher salaries.

On Monday the teacher’s union and the board filed for mediation from the state Bureau of Mediation Services. The state will send a mediator to investigate each side of the issue and suggest a path forward. If mediation fails, the salary increase will be decided based upon binding arbitration from the state.

The St. Francis Union addressed the lack of a teacher contract Monday evening at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting, forgoing usual etiquette to not address negotiation issues at such meetings.

“As of today, we are 269 days without a contract,” said Mike Stoffel, Member Rights Union Chair. “There are 49 metro school districts. We are one of four that are unsettled.”

The union is asking for a two percent increase in salary. The board is offering one percent.

“We’re asking for half of the metro average,” said Stoffel. He believes a one percent increase is essentially no increase, since it “will be eaten up by health care.” In fact, Stoffel believes that such a small increase will actually cause a net loss to teachers over the two-year contract period.

The board and the union have met 12 times attempting to resolve the disagreement. Now teachers are approaching the end of the school year with no contract in place.

However, the board is just as eager as the union to come to an agreement and settle the contract.

“It is our goal to get these done, just as you would like us,” said David Roberts, school board chairman.

The board April 14 also approved and signed three other employment agreements. Contracts are now in place for educational assistants, office professionals and mechanics. Two agreements remain unsettled – those for teachers and for transportation personnel.

“I’m very pleased with the work that has been accomplished so far with having three contracts settled and signed last night,” Roberts said following Monday’s meeting. “I look forward to more positive work and production moving forward with the rest of the groups.”

The board and teachers’ union plan to work on coming to an agreement before mediation from the state begins.

The district employs 333 teachers who serve around 5,000 students.

Story by Sara Marie Spaulding for ABC Newspapers