INDEPENDENCE — Teachers, classified staff and their supporters lined the front steps of the Central School District office Monday before the monthly board meeting.
Both unions have been in contract negotiations since April.
Once the meeting started, they filled the room, and several spoke during the public comment portion.
As both contracts are being negotiated in closed sessions, information about what is being offered on each side was not available to verify statements.
Several of the speakers said they felt disrespected.
Kris Jordan, a social studies and health teacher at Central High School, said he felt disappointed and disrespected.
“I’m angry with the disrespect the district is showing for me and my fellow educators by giving us increasing amounts of responsibilities and decreasing amounts of compensation,” Jordan said.
He also said he was worried he was going to have to take a third job — he already has a second job — to be able to afford to teach in Monmouth.
Jordan said he is worried about the impact on students and the community if teachers have to take second jobs or leaving teaching.
“Lastly, I worry about the damage this is doing to the relationship between the district and the teachers,” Jordan said. “This relationship was in a fragile state based on previous leadership actions, but the distrust, anger and fear about to return even greater than before without the district being able to present a fair contract to us.”
CHS language arts teacher Benjamin Gorman said the board was not willing to end the situation.
“Your employees keep making the same offer,” Gorman said. “Pay cuts. It literally shows the district thinks we are worth less to you than last year. Valued, but worth less.”
Cec Koontz, director of finance and operations said in an email Tuesday that the district is offering a salary increase.
“The cost of the monthly insurance premium for one of the two plans they have access to increased to be in excess of the amount the district offers for insurance,” Koontz said. “For some teachers, the pay increase offered by the district could potentially not cover the additional out-of-pocket cost of their monthly insurance.”
Gorman asked the board for a quote to rent out space in their building.
“If things keep going the way that they’re going, the CEA and the OSEA will need a joint strike headquarters, so I’m asking you for a quote. Please discuss this in your executive session and email me an amount so we can make our plans for the future.”
Another CHS teacher said she would not be able to afford the a high-deductible insurance plan because of her family’s medical needs.
Independence Elementary School teacher Claudette Garcia said she was told a week before school started that she would be teaching third grade instead of kindergarten, which she had taught for 23 years.
In transforming her room from a kindergarten to a third-grade classroom, she spent more than $2,000 of her own money, she said.
“I’ve also gifted 62 hours of my own time since September,” Garcia added.
That is how teachers commit themselves to their students and community, she said.
CSD board president Steve Moser read a statement before taking a five-minute break.
“Your voices are important to us as we continue to move the district forward focused on the Central School District goals of student growth and achievement, family engagement, community partnership, staff leadership and continuous improvement,” Moser said.
He said staff shared that transparency was important, especially on big decisions.
“We’ve been up front and transparent from the beginning of our negotiations,” Moser said. “Including showing our financial offer early on in the process.”
The district, under Superintendent Jennifer Kubista’s leadership, “decided to remove the district’s legal counsel from the negotiation table to have a more open and honest communication and conversation about the contract.”
“We hear your concerns,” Moser said. “We value and appreciate both our classified and our licensed staff and the work they are doing as we continue to work toward settlements in our collective bargaining agreements that are fair, equitable and sustainable. And sustainable is the important piece.”
Koontz said the board asked the “district to prepare a statement on the various proposals that have been on the table so it can be shared with the public.”
Koontz said the district hopes to have that information prepared in a couple of days.