By SHERI GASSAWAY
Tensions over teacher pay are running high in the Lindbergh School District. So much so that more than 300 teachers, students, parents and taxpayers recently packed the high school’s auditorium to show their support for a fair contract.
“Why is one of the best school districts known for giving the lowest paid salaries?” parent Kim Cassidy asked board members during the meeting. “We are disgusted by your unwillingness to fairly compensate our teachers.”
Cassidy was one of many who voiced opposition to the teacher pay schedule for the 2016-17 school year during the June 15 Board of Education meeting. But their calls for justice – for the most part – fell upon deaf ears.
Normally, teachers receive a yearly pay raise and a “step schedule” increase, based on each year of service and their level of education. The proposed contract offered a dismal yearly raise and no step increase for the year.
Teachers rejected that offer last month on a 203-to-1 vote, said Gretchen Moser, vice president of the Lindbergh National Education Association (LNEA). They then requested federal mediation – which would have been free, but district officials wouldn’t agree to it.
DISTRICT BUDGET APPROVED WITH EXCEPTION
In a surprise move, the board voted to separate the “step schedule” from the 2016-17 budget, sending it back to teachers to decide. The board then approved the district’s budget, which includes a 1.25 percent pay raise for all employees, including teachers.
“There were no additional funds appropriated for the schedule, so I don’t know what they (the board members) were thinking or what we’re going to do,” Moser said. “I guess we’ll see if there’s some way to salvage the schedule.”
District officials admit they are behind the game when it comes to teacher salaries. A new teacher in the district would earn $38,750 with a bachelor’s degree, and $39,800 with a master’s degree. Meanwhile in the neighboring Kirkwood School District, the starting pay for teachers is $43,000 and $46,000, respectively.
Moser said that teacher pay at Lindbergh ranks seventeenth among the 22 St. Louis County districts. She challenged board members to put Lindbergh salaries in the top five of the benchmark districts. However, that’s not likely to happen without a tax increase.
Moser told the Labor Tribune this most recent falling out with the district is not the first. She said teachers have had strained communications with administrators since 2008.
At least one parent who attended last week’s meeting felt the teachers’ frustration and took to Facebook with her thoughts. Eileen Wolf said she was disappointed with the tone board members set at the very beginning. She wrote:
“As the President intoned that the Board was “united” and that divisiveness would not be “tolerated,” I sat up straighter and listened a little more keenly. These words were very off-putting to me – both verbally, as an adult and taxpayer in this district, and philosophically, as a rational thinker who believes that all input and opinions are of value…. The message was loud and clear: What happens here is of little consequence.
Sitting in that auditorium, I fully understood the primary issue the teachers and the LNEA have been trying to hard to convey. I’ve read and even heard many teachers say, ‘this isn’t really about the money... it’s about the lack of communication and the disrespect that goes along with that.’ Now I understand, because that is what I felt, sitting there, being dismissed before there was even opportunity to be heard.”
Teachers have until June 30 to come up with a new “step schedule” for the board.