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Grosse Pointe Teachers, School Board Approve New Contract

The proposed contract presented to teachers earlier this month will take effect March 25. It calls for a variety of changes, including a significant change to sick time, and continues to link their pay to the district's fund equity.

Grosse Pointe Public School teachers voted 305 to 191 Monday to approve the proposed contract introduced to them earlier this month with significant changes to sick time and evaluation procedures.

Hours after the vote was tallied, the Grosse Pointe Public School Board approved it, meaning it will take effect March 25.

The contract drew heavy criticism from teachers related to the elimination of sick time and the implementation of banks for each teacher. Any absence beyond 10 days requires the teachers to pay $120 for a substitute regardless of whether one is hired or not.

An exception was added into the contract through a "letter of understanding" distributed to teachers after the originally proposed contract was introducted. The letter states teachers may go before a board to seek exemption from paying the substitute teacher pay with unanimous agreement on catastrophic illness. In such instances, the cost would be split by the Grosse Pointe Education Association and the school district.

This is the first negotiation of the contract since the pay for unionized employees was first linked to the district's fund equity. That contract, developed and took effect in 2009, was considered ground-breaking and teachers agreed to it in part because the district's funds had never dipped near the 10 percent threshold, which is the figure that requires the contract formula to go into effect.

The margin of approval on this contract, which will be in place through 2017, is much closer than the vote on the first contract linking pay to fund equity.

While the proposed contracts for other unionized employees have not been highlighted, those also are linked to fund equity.

Bill March 19, 2013 at 10:39 PM
Ready to leave, see ya, you don't like teaching don't do it anyore, won't be the teacher I used to be, we don't want you then, welcome to the real world.
proudgpteacher March 19, 2013 at 11:32 PM
Welcome to the REAL world? 1400 less a month will be very real to my world. Paying 600 a week to have a baby? Where in the real world do employeers require that? There are GREAT "like" districts that are hiring this spring with a better salary scale and benefits, but in a teacher's real world you go back to step one. Teacher's feel like pawns and defeated, well at least about 40% of us do. I LOVE my job. Nobody continues to do the same job for less and less and less. Ready to leave, we'll get over this, but it won't be today.
Old School March 19, 2013 at 11:48 PM
I can certainly understand the frustration and disenchanment. I feel so badly for those, who really got the word out to us and seemed committed to educating the public about what was happening. I am sorry for what has happened to the teachers. It's really disgraceful. I hope those who put this in motion understand what they have done. I hope they care. I do. Don't give in, or give up. Our kids really love you, as do so many of us.
Chris K March 20, 2013 at 12:09 AM
Why do you go back to step 1, in the teacher real world, when you go to another district? Is this something school boards negotiate or is this an MEA issue, a function of seniority. Inquiring minds want to know
GP resident March 20, 2013 at 12:16 AM
One interesting thing about the RTW law is that it wasn't necessary if the goal was to end mandatory payment of union dues. Any teacher in the MEA or MFT (Detroit, East Detroit, and some other districts) could have filled out a form that would have eliminated virtually all of their union dues. The teacher would have had to pay an administration fee which isn't much. The teacher would have still been covered by the CBA between the district and teachers. Many teachers in my district did this for reasons that didn't have to be disclosed. In other words, one was not forced to pay union dues before RTW was passed.
Jan Murphy March 20, 2013 at 12:32 AM
A sad day for educators in prestigious GP schools today. Kudos to the 191 NO voters who had the courage and inner strength to stand up to their own union and vote their conscience. The language in this contract pushed back hard fought women's rights by decades. The only winners yesterday was the BOE & the negotiators of the GPEA. Not our teachers and for certain not our kids. Thanks again to my children's teachers for all you do each and every day.
Bill March 20, 2013 at 12:33 AM
If you can take a 1400/mo pay cut you make too much, just saying.
Ready to Teach March 20, 2013 at 12:44 AM
Ready to leave, I hope you do leave, since you give the rest of us a bad name. Doesn't the community have enough reasons to bash us without saying we are going to put in less effort because of our new contract? Yes, I am saddened and disappointed that this contract is in effect. Even though I have never been one to take more than a handful of sick days, I still worry about what may happen now if I get sick. But it does not in any way mean that I am going to work any less at my job. I don't think staying late to check papers, write plays, decorate bulletin boards, etc. are going to cause me to be ill. And of course that would not be fair to the students, who had nothing to do with this contract situation.
proudgpteacher March 20, 2013 at 01:07 AM
While seniority no longer exists, years ago teachers who switched districts would get maybe a handful of years, but still be put at the bottum of the seniority list. So it's not a union issue. I would imagine it's because of buget. Administrators and other specialist positions, like curriculum, can leave for competitive salaries though. I don't know if that answers.
Walter Todo March 20, 2013 at 03:52 AM
While I am certain that a teacher with 20+ years experience certainly suffers because of the cuts to pay, I am not sure if the community realizes what this will do to new teachers and potential applicants for teaching positions. Currently, and for at least the next 4 years, the GPPSS is not competitive with any "like" district for starting salaries. Considering the cost of getting a masters degree and other things that tend to happen at about that age for many -- starting a family and/or buying a home -- how do you think this will affect the quality of teachers the district attracts and retains? Not to mention that having teachers who live in the community is always ideal, and now not really affordable for new teachers. If the GPPSS cannot attract and keep the best teachers, well, there goes the district and in turn, the neighborhood.
Brett Meyer March 20, 2013 at 04:58 PM
You won't pay $600 per week if you have a baby. FMLA is federal law.
GP For Life March 20, 2013 at 06:25 PM
Walt, I believe you, but can you just give me a smattering of data to support your: "Currently, and for at least the next 4 years, the GPPSS is not competitive with any "like" district for starting salaries." claim, please? I am curious to see how things stack up right now and to see how things play out in the future. I would also like to know how many other locals put their members' interest on the auction block. It would also serve to remind people now that most teachers don't go into education to get rich. They do so out of a mix of wanting their summers off, a sense of civic duty, a genuine affection for the job, and the great, though less-so now, benefits. Hence, so a difference of, say, $5,000 or $96.15 a week isn't going to be a dealbreaker in deciding to teach at South or Finney. Though, it could be a deciding factor between South and Roeper. The economic equation is more complex than it is for other professions.
Bill IV March 20, 2013 at 07:46 PM
How much do teachers make anyways? All I hear is the paycuts but how much are they cutting it from? Give me an average salary for a teacher and then i'll decide if I feel bad. In the private sector as many of us know, we don't get summers off, we don't get two weeks off for Christmas and Easter and even when we do get a vacation or day off we're usually glued to our clients and staff back at the office via laptops, smartphones and ipads. And to the person who thinks you will have to pay $600 a week to have a baby, c'mon, really? There's a little Federal Law known as Family Medical Leave Act. I'm pretty sure it has more weight than your teachers contract.
Jan Murphy March 20, 2013 at 10:23 PM
I will refrain from debate with most of Bill IV's post from above but will clarify the FMLA question regarding the GP districts teachers. My understanding of the language is the FMLA only guarantees them a position upon return from an extended leave (maternity or catastrophic illness). Teachers do indeed, as of Monday's ratification, have to pay a daily substitute fee of $125 per day after reaching day 10 of being home with their newborns, caring for a parent or child in hospice or any other serious personal need that requires their attention. Feel free to contact the GPEA negotiating team for further clarification. Teachers can ask for a waiver if they themselves are catastrophically ill and they can prove it by taking their private medical history before a board of nonmedical GPPS teachers/administrators to decide if they are sick enough to have their sub fee waved. Teachers/Negotiators - please clarify if I am misinformed.
GP For Life March 21, 2013 at 01:59 AM
Jan, while I agree with you that the union railroaded their membership, I have to say I don't really see this as a big deal. First, employment contracts don't trump federal law. So, I don't see how a district would get away with charging for a sub. Also, I don't see the district actually charging someone for a sub because they were on maternity leave. It's just inviting a legal challenge that will costs more money than they would save and enrage pretty much anyone who loves America. Your point about having to go in front of waiver board of their peers? Really? If I come down with leprosy my employer is going to want to know why I am going to be missing work. It's really not unreasonable and I would argue it's unreasonable for someone to expect their employer not to ask. Basically, if chronic absenteeism wasn't a problem to begin with, teachers wouldn't have to deal with this condition in their contracts. Oh, that and if their union actually cared about them. It's really just a classic situation of a few bad apples abusing a system and ruining it for everyone else. However, just in case I am wrong about the district making teachers on maternity leave pay for subs for standard maternity leave; I will go on record here and say I will personally ball out the district if they charge a teacher. I will bring a world of snarky letters to their doorstep. Scary, I know.
MRSPirateLarz March 21, 2013 at 02:36 AM
Bill, seriously?! That could have been half the monthly pay that teacher makes!
MRSPirateLarz March 21, 2013 at 02:38 AM
The FMLA does not protect PTO. Therefore, yes they will have to pay $600/week to have a baby. And there will not be any new teachers considering teaching in our system in that case!
MRSPirateLarz March 21, 2013 at 02:42 AM
GP, I love the fact that you will bring snarky letters to the board when they charge for maternity leave, because that is what will happen. However, you bring up an interesting point about the law and the contracts. It may even be against state law to require the teachers to pay for subs. Someone more educated and use to reading/researching such things should look that up and get back to us. I'm willing to bet there is a loop-hole in there somewhere!
Walter Todo March 21, 2013 at 03:10 AM
GP for life, I will attempt to get data on starting pay for districts in the area when I get a chance, but GP teacher pay was on par with "like" districts before the automatic pay decreases took effect. $100 per week might not seem like much to some people, but that adds up to property taxes on a small single family home in grosse pointe. And that is significant to a young teacher. If a teacher or his/her spouse has to take time off to have a child or care for a child that seemingly small amount of money makes a huge difference. I know a teacher with a masters degree who also coaches with six or seven years teaching experience who is bringing home $33,000 after every bit of tax, dues, health care, extra state tax for retirees and every other possible thing someone could remove before the check comes. That equates to a $1270 per paycheck every two weeks. Imagine trying to live in GP off that. Maybe there are some who believe teachers don't deserve to live in GP, but I like to think most people value the investment a teacher has in the community when she lives and rasies a family in the community.
Park Parent March 21, 2013 at 11:54 AM
Can anyone with a (labor) law background help us out? It seems to me that the teachers could really have a case here....
observer March 21, 2013 at 11:58 AM
FMLA does not require the employer to pay the employee for their time off, in this case the teachers do get paid and out of that pay $125 is taken to cover the cost of a substitute. I am not going to take a position on this, just wanted to clarify because it seems some and not understanding how this works.
MRSPirateLarz March 21, 2013 at 02:17 PM
observer, just to clarify for you. The teachers do not get paid past the first 10 days. That 10 days is their ENTIRE sick leave for the year, so should the pregnant teacher get sick or have appointments that she can not make at any other time then during the school day, she is already using her sick days. After those 10 sick days are up, she is paying for the sub AND NOT getting a paycheck. Hence why it is such a huge issue to people. I'm not trying to drag you into the debate, just wanted to clarify for you.
MRSPirateLarz March 21, 2013 at 02:39 PM
I dug this up under State of Michigan laws... "Public Act 390 of 1978, in section 7(1) states; "Except for those deductions required or expressly permitted by law or by a collective bargaining agreement, an employer shall not deduct from the wages of an employee, directly or indirectly, any amount . . . without the full, free, and written consent of the employee, obtained without intimidation or fear of discharge for refusal to permit the deduction." Notice the part where it clearly says, allowed under a collective bargaining agreement? Yea, pretty sure that means that there is probably not a loop-hole for the teachers. I'm not an expert, just thought I would throw this out there for all to see. Sad.
GP For Life March 21, 2013 at 07:26 PM
Walt, what percentage of the healthcare bill do they pick up? If it's under 50%, that's a pretty good deal. Also, having to pay into a defined benefit retirement plan is not a terrible thing. You have to look what they get in exchange for what they're paying for when you're evaluating take home pay.
Bill IV March 21, 2013 at 08:30 PM
I asked a simple question. How much does the average teacher make so i can form my own opinion. On the FMLA issue, there's either paid leave or unpaid leave. I can't imagine forking out $2400 a month to keep your job could be legal, especially if it's an unpaid leave because if you're not getting paid there's no reason the district can't pay for a sub. If these are paid leaves, then that's a little murky because employers don't have to pay you anything if you're out on FMLA. Might want to contact a good lawyer on that one. I guess my other question would be why in the world did the teachers vote for this contract?
observer March 21, 2013 at 09:11 PM
Yes because they have 10 day allowance of sick days. Most people would find that pretty generous. While I am not certain I would also suspect that there is some type of short term / long term disability plan as well.
observer March 21, 2013 at 09:14 PM
Are you certain that they will have to pay for the sub cost even after their 10 days of sick pay are exhausted? That does not seem right that they can make a teacher pay for the sub when they are not being paid themselves (however just because it does not seem right does not mean it would not happen).
Doll March 22, 2013 at 01:02 AM
What is happening with other districts in the area? Is it the case that ALL teachers are taking cuts? If not, what went wrong in GP? I moved here for the great schools. I do not see how teacher pay cuts and teacher demoralization will will enhance my children's education.
MaryLynn Bertetto March 22, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Is the teachers' vote private (secret ballot)? How can you be bullied if no one knows for whom you voted?
GP For Life March 22, 2013 at 04:44 PM
Doll, if they haven't by now, it's around the corner. This is thanks to a confluence of macro changes in our economy. 1) The ever-increasing cost of healthcare. Eventually some of the cost is going to come out of your paycheck. 2) The low-interest rate environment. Defined benefit plans (pensions) have a hard time keeping returns high enough to support current and future liabilities. Eventually these pensions become underfunded and they need to take in more money from contributions. 3) Tax bases have been hard hit, less so in areas like GP, Birmingham and, Bloomfield Hills, but still hit. Birmingham may or may not be pressuring teachers in the near future as they have just floated some paper, so they may just coast on that for a while. You'll see more pressure on wages as time goes on. This is unavoidable. To be perfectly honest, there was a "shortage" of teachers going into the housing crisis and now there's a glut. The laws of economics apply to everything.

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