St. Francis teachers union extends plea for a contract

A sea of red-clad teachers filled the St. Francis school board room Monday evening – and overflowed into the hallway.

Deb Parson, St. Francis union president, addresses the District No. 15 school board Monday evening. Photo by Sara Marie Spaulding
Deb Parson, St. Francis union president, addresses the District No. 15 school board Monday evening. Photo by Sara Marie Spaulding

Education Minnesota St. Francis Union members wore red to make a statement to Independent School District No. 15: We want a contract – and we want to be friends.

The board and the union have been attempting to reach a contract agreement for over 300 days. Mediation from the state Bureau of Mediation services began in April.

Deb Parson, union president, addressed the board Monday with a plea punctuated by thanks.

Parson thanked the board for the fair and competitive contract agreements approved for office professionals, educational assistants, nutrition services staff and transportation personnel.

The board has approved employment agreements with all employees except licensed staff and preschool teachers.

“We are asking that you again take a look at who you have before you in those two units: talk, ask questions and again, offer a fair and competitive agreement with the last two units,” said Parson. “We come here tonight to show our support for the negotiators who have put in countless hours at the tables, in planning sessions, in researching data and, of course, many spreadsheets.”

After Parson thanked the board for its efforts in negotiations, she announced the union’s plan to stop e-mail touting efforts, which they had hoped would prod the board to an agreement.

“We have also heard what you have said and what has been felt regarding the recent communications,” said Parson “In a show of respect and good faith we would like to formally state our intent to suspend any further communications directly related to negotiations.”

Leslie Sworsky, a business teacher at St. Francis High School, also addressed the board.

She thanked the board for several “win-win” situations: a teacher academy, a mentor program for new employees, a salary schedule which attracts new employees, past support of lower class sizes and past contract agreements.

Sworsky recalled, “I don’t know how many times I have said to friends in other districts: ‘Our administration and teachers, we do not have a ‘we versus them’ mentality.’”

She wants to continue that relationship.

“We work together to do what is right for our students and our staff. We don’t always agree but we have always been agreeable and we come to an agreement. It is what has made our district strong and respected and I am urging the board to continue that tradition, because it’s how we do things here in St. Francis.”

In response to the union’s presence Monday evening the board determined to meet in closed session Monday, May 19 to prepare for the next mediation meeting scheduled for Friday, May 23.