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Teacher contract will go to mediation

Teachers in red t-shirts filled the audience at the Jan. 11 Farmington School Board meeting.

Frustration over prolonged contract negotiations has started to spill over into the audience at school board meetings.

When the Farmington School Board held its first meeting at city hall Monday, teachers dressed in red t-shirts filled all of the chairs in the audience and lined up along the sides and back of the room. The Farmington Education Association filed for mediation in December, the first time in more than 10 years teachers and the district have not been able to come to an agreement on their own.

FEA representatives say the two sides “remain far apart” on contract language related to lowering class sizes and paying teachers a competitive salary.

The Farmington School Board said when it brought a levy to voters last year it would use the money raised to reduce class sizes, but FEA president Lynda Ihlan said teachers would like to see language in their contract establishing those goals. They are using the district’s former policy for class sizes as well as targets established by Education Minnesota as their goals.

“We just want the district to make some sort of commitment to lowering class sizes using the levy money,” Ihlan said. “We’re just concerned about the workload of our teachers, being able to have a good relationship with our kids.”

Early childhood teacher Mary Sullivan told board members at Monday’s meeting that her salary increase as the new contract currently stands does not cover the tax increase she will see as a result of the operating levy and bond referendum voters approved in November. She said all of the district’s early childhood teachers have second jobs.

Sullivan, who has worked in the district for 17 years, said she is currently paid the same as a fourth-year classroom teacher.

“Our salaries have not kept pace with surrounding districts,” Sullivan said.

Ihlan said teachers are looking for salary increases that are comparable to those in place in other nearby districts. The district is currently offering a 1.5 percent salary increase, Ihlan said. Other nearby districts have agreed on increases of 2 to 3 percent. In September, the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District approved a contract that gave teachers a 2.4 percent raise in each year of the two-year deal.

There will be a hearing with an arbitrator Feb. 12. The two sides could meet before that, but Ihlan said that is not likely to happen because of scheduling difficulties.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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