Story by Mark Fagan, courtesy The Lawrence Journal-World
Eudora teachers say they deserve more money.
The Eudora school district maintains it doesn’t have any to spare.
A federal mediator is coming to town Thursday to help the two sides break an impasse declared after months of negotiations toward a new work agreement.
“We want to be able to help everyone,” said Belinda Rehmer, a member of the Eudora school board. “We have some amazing teachers and would love to give them everything they want, but we have a budget.
“They think we have more money than we do, and somebody’s got to come in and help us figure it all out.”
Mediation begins Thursday evening, with a negotiations session that starts at 6:30 p.m. in the library at Eudora Middle School.
The teachers, represented by the Eudora Education Association, are pushing for:
– All 108 licensed professionals — teachers, librarians, counselors and others — to receive a $125 increase to their annual base salary, plus an ability to pick up “step” raises on the district’s salary schedule based on education and years of experience. Overall, the association says, such educators typically would receive raises of 1 percent.
– The district to provide another $20 a month for employee health insurance.
– Licensed educators to be able to “sell back” accumulated leave to the district at each educator’s full daily wage, provided the educator had been with the district for at least 15 years. Currently, the sell-back rate for such educators is $50 per day.
Dick Powers, a member of the association’s negotiating team and a second-grade teacher in his 15th year at Eudora Elementary School, said that the district ended the past school year with an extra $1.5 million in ending fund balance, and that the teachers’ requests would not come close to accounting for all of that money.
“We’re just asking for a paltry sum,” Powers said. “A paltry amount, a small amount. They have the money to cover it.”
Added Bob Sailler, who is chairman of the association, teaches eighth grade at Eudora Middle School and is in his 26th year teaching in the district: “It’s a matter of priorities.”
Rehmer counters that the district is coming off a year of budget cuts, and heading into another year facing the likelihood of more from the state.
The district cut $1 million from its budget this past spring, and for a district whose overall budget is little more than $10 million that’s no small task, said Kristin Magette, a district spokeswoman.
“It’s just a matter of school districts are in a period of constricting resources, and our board is just trying to be mindful of how those resources are used,” she said.
The district’s licensed professionals continue to work under terms of last year’s contract, which had granted teachers the ability to move on the salary schedule. But such movement would not happen again, unless and until it was included in a new agreement, the one being worked on now.
“We have a very modest proposal,” Sailler said. “We are not that far apart. We are hopeful we can get it settled.”
Eudora News and Information – www.eudorareporter.com
The Eudora School District, as with most districts in the State of Kansas, is facing severe reductions in revenue. Not only is the state of Kansas reducing their contributions to the funding of school districts, USD491 faces additional strain due to the ending of new facilities money the district received for building the new Eudora Elementary School.
At the last School Board meeting, Superintendent Don Grosdidier outlined how the district is looking at nearly $1.3 million in revenue losses for the school year. Grosdidier stated that while budget cuts at the district level would save nearly $700,000, there would still need to be around $600,000 to $650,000 in building level cuts.
“When we start looking at building level cuts, make no mistake about it, we are talking about classroom kinds of cuts. When we get into those budgets, the principles will tell you there’s not much there outside of staff.”
According to numerous reports we have received, staff members likely to be affected by these cuts are being verbally told of that possibility. According to multiple sources that wished to remain anonymous, some teachers from Eudora Elementary School were told this past Friday that they will not be retained next year. We want to state on the record that School District officials would not confirm these reports. We have confirmed that some staff members have decided to either retire or leave their positions in the face of the looming cuts.
We contacted the School District Monday afternoon about these reports and were given the following statement by Eudora School District Spokesperson Kristin Magette.
“The board has taken no action on any classroom positions at this time. That said, the board will be considering additional staff cuts at Thursday’s board meeting.” She also added that “It is not uncommon for a principal to visit with an affected employee prior to a board meeting, simply as a courtesy, so that they aren’t learning of the proposal during the meeting.”
When asked via email how these decisions were to be made, Magette responded that “Each principal and director was directed to identify cuts at 10% and 15% of their budgets.” Per the school districts statement, “The discretion of where these cuts might be made in a school was left entirely with each principal.”
The School District would not identify prior to the Board meeting at what level the cuts will be or if it is strictly personnel cuts, program cuts or a combination of these and other cuts.
The School Board meeting, normally held in the Eudora Middle School library has been moved to the Middle School auditorium this month. The meeting will commence Thursday at 7:00PM.