MCPS, teachers far apart on contract; mediator requested

2012-06-01T07:00:00Z 2012-06-25T18:29:10Z MCPS, teachers far apart on contract; mediator requestedBy CHELSI MOY of the Missoulian missoulian.com
June 01, 2012 7:00 am  • 

With five days left until the Missoula County Public Schools District breaks for summer, Missoula Education Association president Melanie Charlson thinks Superintendent Alex Apostle should stop paying attention to other school districts and start paying attention to unresolved issues at home.

She’s not alone.

“There’s so much anxiety in the district that it’s of grave concern to employees,” said Dave Severson, a field consultant for the state teachers union.

While the MCPS classified staff reached an agreement with the district this week for a 25-cent hourly raise, teachers will break for summer without having ratified a contract for the second year in a row.

In fact, teachers and the district are so far apart in their proposed pay increases that the MEA has requested the assistance of a state mediator. It’s been more than five years since negotiations between the two parties have required a mediator.

While both sides want a resolution, Charlson said, the teachers have proposed a 2.75 percent raise while the district has proposed a 1.25 percent raise, with a $500 one-time-only stipend for veteran teachers.

*****

Missoula County Public Schools District is the only AA district in the state that has not reached an agreement with teachers on pay, Charlson said.

“I’m hopeful the mediator will assist us to get to a meaningful agreement,” she said.

Charlson went on to say that Apostle “being present and attentive to the process is important to the conclusion of the process. He’s the final say.”

She’s concerned, she said, because Apostle has been a finalist for two superintendent jobs at larger school districts in the Northwest in the past two months. In both cases, another candidate was hired.

“I think he needs to keep his eyes on issues closer to home,” Charlson said.

Apostle, on the other hand, said the district will continue to negotiate in good faith. The district is doing its best to be “equitable and fair,” he said, as well as transparent and forthcoming. The unions understand the financial perameters that the district is working within, he said.

Apostle is not involved directly with negotiations but was kept up to date daily on its progress while he was away from the district, he said.

“There is no correlation between bargaining and the fact that I was interviewing for positions,’ Apostle said.

*****

Several school board members have voiced public support for retaining Apostle if he gets an offer from another district. Those discussions wouldn’t take place, though, unless Apostle had another job offer in hand, said Toni Rehbein, chairwoman of MCPS board of trustees.

However, there’s concern among the teaching staff that history could repeat itself. Two years ago, the school board gave Apostle a 10 percent raise after union and non-union MCPS employees accepted a 0.5 percent raise in base salary.

Charlson has publicly questioned the school board about its intentions to increase Apostle’s salary or benefits if he is offered a job elsewhere. She also asked where that money would come from – as budgets are tight leading into the next academic year.

Charlson has not received an answer, and said she feels the school board should be as concerned about teacher retention and salaries as they are about Apostle’s.

“There continues to be this pro-central-administration viewpoint from the board,” she said. “We don’t want a repeat of two years ago. Our fear is where we settle for something minimal in the best interest of the district and he gets a raise.”

Also, questions continue to swirl about what will happen with administrative jobs at two of the high schools. Teachers wonder to what extent they’ll play a part in deciding who fills those vacancies, Charlson said.

Meanwhile, the Merged Missoula Classified Employees union, representing close to 400 members, on Tuesday reached an agreement with the school district for a 25-cent hourly raise for all MCPS classified staff.

It’s the first time the classified staff has received a lump-sum increase rather than a percent increase in pay. This is an important distinction because classified staff traditionally are paid less than certified staff and administrators.

“It was give-and-take the entire way,” said Sheri Postma, president of the classified employees’ organization. “We were meeting in the middle, happy with the way things were going and, in the end, felt it was a fair settlement.”

*****

The classified staff has until June 7 to vote on whether to ratify the negotiated contract, but Postma is confident it will pass.

However, pushing for a significant pay increase was not the primary mission of negotiations, she said. Rather, it was preserving jobs as the district works its way through the budget process.

Right now, 16 classified staff jobs are on the chopping block come next fall. While many of those are vacant positions, six or seven employees’ jobs are at stake, Postma said.

“We’re fighting for every single position that may be eliminated and finding out what we can do to keep people working,” she said.

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(37) Comments

  1. Bpos
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    Bpos - June 07, 2012 7:42 pm
    Teachers: life changers, counselors, coaches, cheerleaders, fundraisers, gardeners, leaders, protectors, life-long learners, champions for children, mediators, community service leaders, and one of the largest tax paying groups in the city. We love what we do and we do it well. Missoula's teachers are amazing, innovative professionals. Proud to be an educator!
  2. castigate
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    castigate - June 04, 2012 3:52 am
    Ms. Postma seems to find down-sizing among custodial staff somewhat acceptable. The "five retired positions" don't simply disappear by chance--those positions are cherry-picked for the money they can offer up to the administrative coffers. The work performed by those five men and women is now shouldered by their co-workers. Yet the co-workers are only paid .25 cents more per hour. Little or no increase in training. Increased insurance costs to suck up that 25 cents. Increased expectations to keep the "viewing public" happy with shiny schools and perfectly-facilitated sporting events and train shows at Big Sky etc. If six employees were required to maintain millions of dollars of public real estate last year, are we to assume that retirement by these workers means fewer square feet to clean....or were we all loafing as the high school football teams (in particular) use janitors as personal maids?
  3. Bpos
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    Bpos - June 03, 2012 7:57 am
    Check the numbers - since Dr. Apostle has arrived in Missoula, positions and salaries at the administrative level have soared. For a district the size of MCPS to have 8 administrators, not including Dr. Apostle, who are making over $100,000 per year is ridiculous. How many of our local businesses have this ratio of high wage earners? The allocation of public funds has been mismanaged leading this district to the current position of not being able to afford raises for the employees who are actually doing the day to day work to develop the future leaders and employees of this city/state/nation/world. Also, accepting private funds to launch new programs, such as IB, and then turning around and plopping those program expenses in the general fund is a crime - you would not get away with this in the private sector - look closely, Missoulians - you are being hoodwinked.
  4. Yellowdog1
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    Yellowdog1 - June 03, 2012 3:22 am
    Typical, people do not hate teachers. They hate the fact while others suffer, teachers are whining about wanting a huge pay increase, and more benefits in very trying economic times. We simply do not more to give. Please stay on subject instead of name calling when things do not go your way.
  5. ric
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    ric - June 02, 2012 8:08 pm
    I don't understand why so many people hate teachers. You would think they are wolves or something.
  6. joedirt
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    joedirt - June 02, 2012 8:53 am
    To quote some of the folks on this board, "You chose the profession you are in...don't complain about not getting a raise in over 4 years."
  7. oboink59
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    oboink59 - June 02, 2012 7:43 am
    For all of you who don't think the School Board and Dr. Apostle aren't doing right by your children and the education system. The School Board meeting is the 2nd Tuesday of the month. Go in and have your voices heard and demand their resignations before they mess it up worse.
  8. Yellowdog1
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    Yellowdog1 - June 02, 2012 7:40 am
    Unfortunately you are very misguided. I know several teachers, two in immediate family. None of which work summers! All of which take summer, two weeks at Christmas, spring break, as well as the 5 personal days off. My two young children will be fine, education starts and ends at who pays attention at home.
  9. ric
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    ric - June 02, 2012 6:55 am
    If they are doing such a great job, why are literacy and math skills so poor among our high school grads???
    ++++++++++++++++++

    Bad parenting.
  10. wes jh
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    wes jh - June 01, 2012 11:34 pm
    Oh whatever, teachers are not part of an untouchable priesthood. If they are doing such a great job, why are literacy and math skills so poor among our high school grads??? If there is no money, there is no money, so no raise for any in the administration portion either.
  11. wes jh
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    wes jh - June 01, 2012 11:31 pm
    yeah, where is the "shared sacrifice" that we here so much about??????
  12. wes jh
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    wes jh - June 01, 2012 11:30 pm
    Unions have been responsible for the driving offshore of so many american jobs simply because businesses are in business to produce stuff people want, whether it be goods or services, in order to make money, not provide cushy jobs. Unions have provided a place for slackers to hide from scrutiny, especially in government unions, which even FDR thought was a bad idea.
  13. wes jh
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    wes jh - June 01, 2012 11:26 pm
    Gov. Walker is in the pocket of the people who voted for him. He ran on an agenda of reforms because Wisconsin was facing multiple billion dollar deficits. His reforms have saved Wisconsinites billions and moved them foreward, actually saving teacher jobs. The fact of the matter is you can't continue to increase the salary and benefits of people paid with tax dollars when the private sector is struggling. Its not about dumping on the teachers or unions, its about reality. So where is the shared sacrifice that the lefties all talk about ????? Certainly not for government employees. And another thing, teachers know what the job pays before they enter that field, I have no sympathy for any of them. While their are many good teachers, I refuse to treat many of the slackers that hide as employees of the public school system as if they belong to an untouchable priesthood. Want praise? Then put out.
  14. MTnative92
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    MTnative92 - June 01, 2012 10:46 pm
    we should all be jealous of teachers making too much money and getting summers off. Look where we are, working our butts off because we failed to take advantage of an education. For those that settle for working for peanuts with a masters degree...supply and demand. face the music. choose your career wisely!
  15. LLRain
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    LLRain - June 01, 2012 6:19 pm
    I would hazard to guess that Bob was tipping his cap to the fact that the “private” sector has seen record profits recently. It’s always interesting to hear those who may be educated try to understand the process of educating. Those who equate the private sector and public sector in this context will continue to misunderstand the realities of purpose. These red herrings and misnomers only confirm ignorance.
  16. ds
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    ds - June 01, 2012 5:25 pm
    Not a spin; it's economics. Whose pocket is Scott Walker in? Koch Bros., et al. As Bob points out, you're doing a circular firing squad here if you're all about sticking it to the teachers and the unions, and not holding responsible the folks who are hoarding the bucks. Teacher salaries have not kept up with the cost of living. Granted, neither has anyone else in the working and middle class. The Montana university system is at the bottom of the nation in salaries for tenured profs, because of the failure to give cost of living raises. But as goes it for the union workers, so goes it for the unorganized. It's only through organization and collective bargaining that workers can get the pay they deserve.
  17. DueProcess
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    DueProcess - June 01, 2012 3:58 pm
    Bob,
    This has NOTHING to do with a CEO of a major corporation, but I can play your silly little game. Is there one teacher in the District that took a job in the MCPS system that wasn't aware of the pay and benefits before accepting the position? Do CEO's get the summer off? Do CEO's get tenure? Are teachers paid for performance? I think your scorecard has a big ZERO in it so far, and i could continue but I think I made my point. Frankly if teachers would give up the crutch called tenure, and accept being paid based on how they perform, then they would earn more money because the good ones would be rewarded and the others would be looking for work. People who work in the real world gt evaluated and paid for what they actually do and how well they do it. If that isn't good enough Bob, let's see if you can become a CEO.
  18. pf1979
    Report Abuse
    pf1979 - June 01, 2012 3:36 pm
    Drinking the Obama class warfare Kool-aid I see. Don't want to pay JP Morgan's CEO salary? don't do business with them. Easy Peazy. I have no kids, plan on having none yet I still get to pay for services rendered, and if I did have a child they certainly wouldn't be indoctrinated in public schools. I have 3 engineering degrees, one's a masters that took much more time and dedication to obtain a "Secondary Ed" cake walk degree. I make about what the teachers do in base salaries and get far less in benefits than they do (about 25%) and work about 50% more. Sorry, I'm not shedding many tears for em.
  19. Alan Johnson
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    Alan Johnson - June 01, 2012 2:51 pm
    Probably some kind of lefty conspiracy don't you think, Walt?
  20. Alan Johnson
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    Alan Johnson - June 01, 2012 2:49 pm
    Teachers are also only PAID for the time school is in session. Read their contract. Schools do give the teachers an option of getting checks only during the school year or getting smaller checks over twelve months. But they are only paid for the time they are contracted to work for the school district. They must pay for their own continuing education during their "vacation."
  21. Bob
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    Bob - June 01, 2012 2:01 pm
    Considering the state of the economy I could certainly understand resentment towards any working class person asking for a raise these days. However, to be fair, why don't we start throwing some of that resentment towards the top 100 paid CEO's in this country, who last year saw their compensation rise 8.9 percent!! Since when did we arrive at a place where teachers, nurses, and other everyday professionals we live with and depend on are chastized for wanting an extra dollar an hour, but we're okay when the CEO of JP Morgan sees his compensation rise by 4 million in a year. How socialist of me to bring that up! There probably isnt many major corporations in MT employing many people, but if your one of those, dont be upset with the teacher for that extra dollar an hour, instead look to your ceo and wonder why your pay isn't rising either. I would be the first to say to a teacher, etc "sorry but no raises until things pick up", but the problem is if ceo's are raking in huge profits and huge increases in salary right now, then in my book "things have picked up", I'm just not getting the reward.
  22. skibum
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    skibum - June 01, 2012 1:51 pm
    ANOTHER raise? Teachers are the biggest whiners around. Nobody in my family has recieved a raise in over 4 years. Teachers are already overpaid for working 9 months of the year. Did I say 9 months??? Heck, with every holiday known to man as a day off, they don't even work 9 months.
  23. PersonalResponsibility
    Report Abuse
    PersonalResponsibility - June 01, 2012 12:17 pm
    I think I love you.
  24. PersonalResponsibility
    Report Abuse
    PersonalResponsibility - June 01, 2012 12:16 pm
    BTW, if you want more foe your kids...get more involved in their education.
  25. PersonalResponsibility
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    PersonalResponsibility - June 01, 2012 12:13 pm
    Life is about choices...and teachers CHOSE to pursue degrees in education knowing the pay would not be great. ..just like I CHOOSE to stay home with my child knowing it doesn't pay a penny. In the meantime, my husband has gone 5 years without any increase in pay-even for cost of living. As a matter of fact, the company he works for has decreased our health coverage while increasing premiums, taken away some benefits all together, and cut his hours. Oh, he's taken on more responsibility and been promised a raise...only to be told by his boss, ”I don't remember saying that.” Yet he continues to bust his butt because he's thankful to HAVE a job....especially one which allows us to make choices.
  26. pf1979
    Report Abuse
    pf1979 - June 01, 2012 11:51 am
    While the public sector unions are getting raises and benefits that cost about 4 times what my private sector benefits are. Mine are being cut and taxes raised and levies levied to finance theirs. Nice try at spinning though. We need a Scott Walker here in MT.
  27. mpp
    Report Abuse
    mpp - June 01, 2012 11:48 am
    Really Teachers? At this point I consider you all to be 'the boy who cried wolf". You complain to the community 2 years ago about Apostle and cry us a river yet you do absolutely nothing such as a vote of no confidence. You want the community to feel sorry for you is all I can figure. If you don't have a masters degree you make 30k+ per year, if you have a masters or higher you are making 50-65k per year and you only work 9 months out of the year. Hopefully the rest of the community is like me and will turn a deaf ear on these big whiners! If you don't like your jobs got get another one in Missoula making the average wage of $8-10 per hour. You'd be begging for your jobs back with MCPS.

    As far as Apostle goes, I agree, he also can go elsewhere if he doesn't like his salary. Apparently he's trying but it's not working out for him. The MCPS board has pretty much damaged his reputation (even though they constantly shower him with compliments) in the end they know the community will blame him for any mishaps. He's working to meet their agenda not his own and in the end he will be the loser and scapegoat. He's already the scapegoat but make no mistake, the agenda is theirs not his. After all I think he's proven he doesn't really care about Missoula or it's schools but rather just a hefty paycheck.

    Teachers shouldn't have a raise higher than the classified staff at this point .25/hour. Alex Apostle shouldn't have a raise for the remainder of his tenure than he should skate out of town quietly never to be heard from again. The 3 district administrators should all be let go as well, we can't afford them and we don't need them, that's what Alex Apostle was hired to do (their work) he needs to do it to earn his pay.

    Above all teachers stop whining! Missoula is getting sick of hearing how bad you all have it. I don't care if you do some school related work during the summer, thats your choice. If you don't like your job and don't believe you are compensated enough LEAVE!
  28. BR
    Report Abuse
    BR - June 01, 2012 11:02 am
    A yellow dog said: "The teachers should accept the raise, and be thankful they have jobs,, let's not forget the work barely over nine months out of the year."

    Two old saw absurdities in a very short post. First, you must not have been following local education news for the last several years. The professionals who teach your children in town have gone without even cost of living raises while MCPS has awarded administrative raises to keep them more on parity with other US school districts. Message? If you are a good teacher the Board wants you to go teach in WA so it can hire the best of the inexperienced and underqualified applicants and save the MCPS money. Where does that leave your children? On the street corner, that's where.

    Second, I've known MT teacher over 35 years and I have yet to make the acquaintance of one who did not work the summer, prepare lesson plans and materials for the next year, or upgrade their credentials and knowledge through coursework or conferences unsupported by MCPS.

    You have a wage labor orientation YellowDog, and you should want more for your kids, and my kids, and your neighbor's kids.
  29. Grassy
    Report Abuse
    Grassy - June 01, 2012 10:03 am
    Do I believe that our teachers deserve a raise - of course! However, there is only so much $$ that is allocated to each district. I believe that union has to very careful in a time when the private sector and small businesses are struggling to stay afloat. When the public stops supporting their teachers because of their belief that they deserve a raise in such tough economic times, it may cause severe unintended consequenses. For instance, do you believe that the voters will support the next school levy when they were struggling to keep their jobs and provide for their family when teachers were demanding a raise? What ever happened to community? What happened to banding together to support one another during trying times?
  30. Hi
    Report Abuse
    Hi - June 01, 2012 9:53 am
    ...another day, another group of Missoula Public Employees demanding more money, and raising our taxes to pay for it...pathetic. NO raises, what are they going to do, quit and work three lousy Missoula jobs like the rest of us?
  31. ds
    Report Abuse
    ds - June 01, 2012 9:44 am
    Most of you anti-union folks are unaware that maintaining public sector pay and benefits is an important way to get private sector non-union jobs to offer decent pay and benefits. It does two things: 1) establish a norm for pay and benefits structures; and 2) make private employers compete for workers.

    "unions have set norms and established practices that become more generalized throughout the economy, thereby improving pay and working conditions for the entire workforce. This has been especially true for the 75% of workers who are not college educated. Many “fringe” benefits, such as pensions and health insurance, were first provided in the union sector and then became more generalized—though, as we have seen, not universal. Union grievance procedures, which provide “due process” in the workplace, have been mimicked in many nonunion workplaces. Union wage-setting, which has gained exposure through media coverage, has frequently established standards of what workers generally, including many nonunion workers, expect from their employers. Until, the mid-1980s, in fact, many sectors of the economy followed the “pattern” set in collective bargaining agreements. As unions weakened, especially in the manufacturing sector, their ability to set broader patterns has diminished. However, unions remain a source of innovation in work practices (e.g., training, worker participation) and in benefits (e.g., child care, work-time flexibility, sick leave)." http://www.epi.org/publication/briefingpapers_bp143/

    So you should want to see strong unions, no matter what sector.
  32. Jon_w
    Report Abuse
    Jon_w - June 01, 2012 8:18 am
    These teachers need to take a 30 cent and hour pay raise or noithing at all for this year! Most of us get no pay raises at all or very little. NO one in the Missoula school system should get any raise including Aspotle. However the district should increase theit share of the districts contribution to employee healthcare, except for Aspolte who earns enough to pay out of pocket for all his health care.
  33. on the way back
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    on the way back - June 01, 2012 7:47 am
    With full benefits. The district spends $650.00 a month per person for health insurance.
  34. wes jh
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    wes jh - June 01, 2012 7:26 am
    It galls me to no end that in these very difficult economic times, unions of all stripes have the nerve to even think to ask for, no demand raises. Even more appalling are the unions that are paid with tax dollars. How about we tie your pay increase to literacy and math scores? A little performance based rewards, just like the folks in the private sector who pay your salaries. Want a raise, then prove you are worth it.
  35. walter12
    Report Abuse
    walter12 - June 01, 2012 7:11 am
    Every year the school system threatens to cut the little guys, the non teacher staff at the schools. They are always on the chopping block. But don't kid yourself, being a counselor, teacher, or administrator in the MCPS is one of the most coveted jobs in the entire State of Montana. The MCPS gets over a hundred (qualified and good) applicants for every and any teacher position that is ever open. And that is very seldom. No one ever quits a teacher position in the MCPS, unless they are forced to relocate to another state.
  36. Buzz Feedback
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    Buzz Feedback - June 01, 2012 7:01 am
    I see Dr. Apostle has taken a break from sending out resumes to comment here.
  37. Yellowdog1
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    Yellowdog1 - June 01, 2012 2:00 am
    The teachers should accept the raise, and be thankful they have jobs. Many in the community are only making minimum wage and just as educated. The raise they are asking for is unacceptable for this current economic time. Teachers are a noble profession, but let's not forget the work barely over nine months out of the year.
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