Proposed Contract for Grosse Pointe Teachers Draws Heavy Criticism

Teachers from Grosse Pointe Public School district are scheduled to meet today at Grosse Pointe North High School for a question and answer session regarding a proposed contract, which calls for changes some teachers say are extreme.

After receiving a copy of the proposed contract last week along with a presentation about the highlights, Grosse Pointe Public School district teachers are invited to a question and answer session Monday.

Teachers are to vote on the proposed contract March 18. If it is approved, it will take effect March 25.

Negotiations have been going on behind the scenes between district officials and union representatives. This is the first negotiation of the contract that first linked the teachers pay to the district's fund equity balance to ensure it did not dip below a certain level.

The teachers agreed to that contract, considered a ground-breaking contract in the education world, in part because they never believed it would actually come in to play, former Grosse Pointe Education Association President Ranae Beyerlein previously told Patch. She was the president during the negotiation of that contract.

Essentially, if the district's fund equity dips below 10 percent, teachers and other unionized employees agreed to help make up the difference to maintain that balance.

Under the proposed contract, a modified formula would be applied to ease the impact upon teachers while still eventually increasing the fund equity.

Pay for the teachers has already been cut in addition to increased healthcare costs and the proposed contract outlined last week with a Power Point presentation shows more cuts are ahead.

The proposed contract is drawing strong criticism from many teachers. A new Facebook page started in November--right around the time the pay cuts took effect--called I Support Grosse Pointe Teachers 2012-2013, lists many concerns. The page specifically says it is not associated with the GPEA.

Additionally, individual teachers have been posting on Facebook and other social media sites about their dissatisfaction with the negotiations.

The following are some of the changes in the proposed contract from the current contract:

  • Sick time has been eliminated and teachers will each receive an "individual leave bank" of 10 days when they receive their normal rate of pay; those vested, or with the district for four years or longer, will be alotted 12 days for the next two school years and then be reduced to 10 for the remainder of the contract
  • After the "individual leave bank" has been exhausted, teachers will be alotted an "individual roll bank" from which they can use days if necessary with a documented illness; use of these days require teachers to pay $120 per day of absence to reimburse the district for the cost of a substitute teacher regardless of whether a substitute is actually hired
  • The use time from the individual leave and roll banks may not exceed 29 days.
  • A "Community Roll Bank" will be established and managed by two administrators and three teachers appointed by the GPEA that would allow teachers to pull days from it once they've exhausted the first two banks
  • Short Term Disability will be available after 30 days
  • Personal days, which will be reduced to two from three with documentation required to be submitted to the Human Resources Department for prior approval with the exception of emergencies
  • Grievance timelines will be reduced from 60 to 30 days following a decision by the superintendent
  • Pay schedules/raises will be changed so that a teacher may only move up a 'step' the following school year if they receive an "effective" or "highly-effective" rating; teachers who are their maximum pay who are rated at "ineffective" or "minimally effective" will move down a step
  • A joint professional development committee will be formed to determine the needs of the district
  • High School teachers will be required to provide academic support and consultation to students in tutorial, or study-hall, periods
  • All teachers will be paid in 26 increments throughout the year; fewer pay periods will not be offered as an option

At least two items highlighted in the proposed contract would appear to be an effort to encourage retirement by teachers who are eligible, including:

  • a $2,000 "early notification stipened" to any teacher who provides the district with written notice of resignation due to retirement by March 1 with the retirement effective June 30 to Aug. 31; the retirement is irrevocable and must be a true retirement in that the teacher must provide evidence that they are drawing on retirement funds
  • those teachers who retire at the end of the 2013/14 school year will receive $50 per unused day of "individual roll bank days"

The question and answer session is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday in the cafeteria of Grosse Pointe North High School.

Old School March 15, 2013 at 02:20 AM
At the end of the day this is about our children, the ones in charge of them for so much of their day, and our children's future. We need to keep the teachers we all love who are so qualified, and dedicated, able to stay here and keep doing the amazing job they are doing. If our teachers are hurt we are all hurt. As the saying goes, when the schools go... there goes the community.
Ahmed Ismail March 15, 2013 at 03:30 AM
I can probably relate to the Board's situation with their fund equity being where it is better than anyone who has posted on this thread other than Mr. Walsh. The fact of the matter is that this is a zero sum game for them. From the published numbers on the school system website (which tie into their recent audit), they don't have the money to soften the blow of the scheduled cuts. All they can do now is try to use what little they do have to spread out the cuts so that they are less painful. Possibly there is a more palatable way to restore fund equity. In my mind, now would be a good time to take these negotiations public and get them out from behind closed doors. They are NOT kept private by law; it is always by mutual consent of both parties. If their arguments and statements are sound, why wouldn't either party want to share them with the community? Then, both parties will be able to lay out their numbers to all of us. Anecdotal information and hearsay as to what the Board and teachers' union positions would disappear. A quick Google search came up with these articles: http://eagnews.org/why-teacher-contract-negotiations-should-always-be-conducted-in-public/ http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_20368227/douglas-county-teacher-negotiations-open-public If the negotiations are public, the community could make educated conclusions as to the options available for our system, our staff and how they will impact our kids. What do you think?
MRSPirateLarz March 15, 2013 at 03:48 AM
Thank you for all your years of teaching this community's wonderful children! I hope that you vote no, because as a product of this school system and a parent in this system now, I want better for you!
MRSPirateLarz March 15, 2013 at 03:49 AM
AGREED! Thank you for caring about our children and teaching them! Vote NO, as a parent, I want better for you! This contract is NUTS
MRSPirateLarz March 15, 2013 at 03:51 AM
As a parent in this district, I can promise you that YOU do make more money than me. And you know what? I THINK YOU SHOULD GET PAID MORE!!!! Thank you! Vote NO, you have the support of most if not all the parents in this community!
Ahmed Ismail March 15, 2013 at 05:45 AM
Grosse Pointe Woods--in your post above you stated, "...For example, how do they select a Super.? Well they hire a national search firm, convene committees and on and on and on. At the last minute they jump out with their candidate in the District...." is not factual. I attended all of the superintendent search meetings, which were done in public. Hiring a national search firm is the norm for school systems of our level. If they hadn't hires a national firm, they would have been irresponsible. The person you referenced as the "candidate in the District" (Dr. Harwood) was an open candidate for the position from the beginning of the process, went through the same interview process as the candidates from Pennsylvania, Troy and Birmingham. The Board was far from unanimous in his selection. In fact, the final meeting on the topic was quite heated. The end with a tumultuous 4-3 vote in favor of Dr. Harwood. There was no issue of as you state, "...Why not be honest in the first place?" In fact, the process couldn't have been any more transparent. While some of the other statements in your post are accurate, the ones regarding the superintendent selection process were not.
Ahmed Ismail March 15, 2013 at 05:58 AM
David--I think if you forward your request for this information in a bit more detailed format to Mr. Chris Fenton at christian.fenton@gpschools.org or to the entire Board at schoolboard@gpschools.org, you will get it in short order. I know that when I was on the School Board, the exact reports you are looking for were presented at a Board meeting. It was at the time we were looking at implementing a partial "pay for play" policy on after school activities. The reports presented showed the name of every after school activity, the number of students involved in each and the cost per student for running the activity. The costs for some were astonishing. I seem to recall that gymnastics was the highest cost per pupil sport, but I could be wrong. When you get it, post it so that all of us can see it please. Thank you.
Ahmed Ismail March 15, 2013 at 06:07 AM
Grosse Pointe--in your post above, you state, "....teachers are important to us and that a fair and equitable contract needs to be negotiated--before or after this RTW nonsense." The only suggestion I have is that the words, "....based on reasonable financial projections, raising the fund equity back to 10% over the period of the new contract", you would have an agreement that both sides should sign prior to their start of public negotiation. If one side didn't want to sign this, it would tell us that they are not negotiating in good faith. What do you think?
Ahmed Ismail March 15, 2013 at 06:12 AM
Jan--You question, "...I'm curious as to whether there was a poll or survey done of the union membership before or early into bargaining by their team?" is an excellent question! I hope someone from the teachers union makes it a point to answer it.
George R. McMullen Jr. March 15, 2013 at 10:55 AM
Where does a person start to comment late in this forum. With 163 comments it longer than last years billion page “Oxford Foundation” report… my apologies being late to the party. I’ve read as much as possible with time constraints the standing 163 passionate comments. Couple of things that may be worth noting when the contract is presented “officially” to the public…How does the contract benchmark with our other “like” districts in the state, and will the new contract allow us to maintain a “residents only” school district? Along with the school board I don’t negotiate the contract that’s the duty and responsibility of school administration and the Grosse Pointe Education Association, so I will not comment on negotiations. However that doesn’t prevent me from extending best wishes for all parties involved on this very difficult task to come to an agreement that’s the best for all concerned.
Grosse Pointe March 15, 2013 at 11:50 AM
It is not right to treat teachers this way. How do we expect to keep and attract people who share our community's family values with a contract which significantly decreases their pay? These decreases are almost $1,000 a month for many of our teachers.
Grosse Pointe March 15, 2013 at 11:53 AM
It is immoral to assess a penalty to women for having children. The new contract forces a "fine" of $120 a day for some 20 days after a about 10 days.
GP teacher March 15, 2013 at 12:40 PM
Jan, The answer to your question is no. There was no formal survey done of the GP staff to ascertain their wishes before bargaining took place. If memory serves we were sent a google doc to make comments on . But, no formal survey. To others in support of out teachers... Thank you for your kind posts. Believe me teachers in Grosse Pointe are all reading your words. I agree with the poster above. It is wrong to make those who are pregnant, seriously ill, or those with seriously ill children or spouses pay sub costs. Most districts ( really all that Ii know of with caps on days off) have what is called a sick bank. This enables teachers to donate unused sick days to those in need. The use of the bank is overseen by the union to help prevent abuse by any one individual. Teachers must apply to the bank for approval. I really don't understand why we can't negotiate a sick bank in our contract. There is no cost involved other than, I would imagine, administrative. This cost could be incurred by the GPEA .
Christopher Profeta March 15, 2013 at 01:12 PM
Thanks for the support, but it's our teachers who need the support right now. I teach night classes at MCC, and during the day I am a stay-at-home-dad to a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old. Somehow I think the latter is a better qualification to serve on this board. Unfortunately, I referee enough unproductive screaming matches as it is. Seriously though, I'd like to encourage you and everyone else who agrees that teachers are highly educated professionals who deserve the respect of the communities they serve to take a look at my Cafe Press store. We've go a campaign going right now called "Support Grosse Pointe. Support Grosse Pointe Teachers." to not only show our teachers that we have their backs in this, but to also emphasize the point that the strength of our schools and the strength of our community are inseparably linked. http://CafePress.com/PPEMichigan
Suzy March 15, 2013 at 02:45 PM
David, there are detailed reports for every issue you address. Or as Ahmed suggested, email Chris Fenton. The board is not hiding anything. You do realize that the board implemented a pay-to-play policy several years ago to offset athletic costs? Each HS has a Booster club which raises money for topics you discussed. Every team also does it's own fundraising, selling everything from bake goods to mattresses. Are you suggesting cutting even more funds to the Arts? The band, choir, performing art and general arts are just as important as other college prep courses. One again, Band and Choir Booster clubs fund a large portion of the program. Students pay for their own trips, rent or buy their own instruments, but their own uniforms, buy art supllies, etc... The ticket prices for performances, offset the costs of productions. Many of the Performing Art employees are volunteers, a few are students, earning a whopping $7.40 an hour.
Ahmed Ismail March 15, 2013 at 03:56 PM
George--in your post above, you state, "...Along with the school board I don’t negotiate the contract that’s the duty and responsibility of school administration and the Grosse Pointe Education Association, so I will not comment on negotiations...." Your statement would lead some to believe that it is the administration and not the School Board who is in reality on the other side of the bargaining table. While there is a negotiating team made up of administration, they are negotiating on behalf of the Board. They do not make a move without clearing it with the Board. The actual contract is between the Grosse Pointe Board of Education and the GPEA, not the administration and the GPEA. What does the relationship of the School Board, administration and the GPEA have to do with your being able to share your personal opinion as a private citizen on the information that has been revealed about the negotiations to date? Your opinion is valued. Please share it with us!
Ahmed Ismail March 15, 2013 at 04:17 PM
We can't forget that the administrators negotiating the contract are under the same basic contract with regards to pay cuts. Their pays are scheduled to go down at a similar pace to the other staff members. I believe Dr. Harwood went so far as to take his cut from the search firm's recommended salary for his position up front in his contracted pay to show his commitment to the school system. I believe the fund equity formula also applies to all of the secretaries, maintenance workers, etc. The only people who I believe are exempt are the staff members presently at minimum wage. The reason the teacher contract is so important is that it usually sets the pattern for the other bargaining group contracts.
David March 15, 2013 at 07:40 PM
Ahmed I don't mean to be a cynic but this blog is a waste of time. This contract is a done deal. The outcome is predictable. The union wants the maximum number of employees paying dues. The contract is for support staff, instructors, teachers, administrator, janitors etc.. The Board gave into the union by negotiating the contract. To make it look good the Board will give back the sub pay for maternity and illness or something like that. Why aren't you teachers telling people that the posted version of the contract has already been revised? Changes already made. Look at the political leanings of Board members. Of course the Board will have a new contract by the right to work deadline. Union members will vote for the contract. They always do. I don't really think that senior teachers are too concerned about indebted young teachers. Janitors will say yes, they don't want to be privatized. Winners: Union, senior employees, janitors, Board, and democrats. The Board continues to hand out their perks. There is nothing in that contract that can't WAIT FOR TWO WEEKS. Loosers: The kids, education, young teachers, taxpayers Why does anyone feel sorry for the teachers? THEIR leadership is pushing this through under the RTW deadline. Union first. Anyway, the contract is a done deal. Anyone bets on the contract not passing by RTW deadline? This is about politics, not kids.
Grosse Pointe March 15, 2013 at 08:28 PM
Mr. Ismail, From what the teachers I have spoken to, I was told that they were not opposed to a pay freeze or pay cut, and they knew they would need to contribute more to their health care. They said it was the "other" items like the pay for a sub even though one is not needed, the changes to hs pay that is not inline with the ms or es, the lack of consideration for people who suffer unexpected illness, a pregnancy, or even an accident, and other items such as this. I get the impression that the board is trying to take advantage of the RTW deadline knowing that the unions will want to settle prior to the deadline so they can still collect dues the way they currently are. From what I have been told by some veteran teachers, the contracts of past, with the exception of the one prior to this one, did not seem as combative. They said that they felt a sense respect was shown and given by both sides negotiating. I cannot be sure, but I trust the teachers I spoke with, and from watching the board meetings, some of these members do not treat each other with respect, so I can see how they could be perceived this way when it comes to negotiations. Unfortunately, I could see there being a lack of good faith in more than one place, and I feel like the teachers who are represented by a group "voted" in by others, may feel helpless, and the administrators working on behalf of the board, may have their hands tied. I am always interested in hearing your thoughts as well.
Grosse Pointe March 15, 2013 at 08:36 PM
David, I agree that this is rushed, however, I do not feel the board is giving in. Like I posted earlier, the veteran teachers I spoke with were not happy about this specifically stating that they were not asked what were their concerns or priorities prior to negotiations. I was surprised, because I would expect that from the people working in my best interest. I also agree that the union wants this to go through. This all seems so crooked and makes me uncomfortable. If it passes, it will be because the union and the board scared the teachers into taking a bad deal in fear of what would happen without it. I for one would not want to be in that position. I understand the good that comes from a union, but having to accept something I wasn't in favor of would not sit well with me. The teachers I know are all about the kids, but you are right, this is politics (both dem and repub) and unions.
Ahmed Ismail March 16, 2013 at 12:35 AM
Grosse Pointe--in your post dated today at 4:28pm, you said, "... I get the impression that the board is trying to take advantage of the RTW deadline knowing that the unions will want to settle prior to the deadline so they can still collect dues the way they currently are..." You are absolutely right--but you have to understand that they have a fiduciary responsibility to do just that, especially now that Fund Equity is almost gone. With regards to the "combative" nature of the negotiations, I don't really think they are combative. The union wants something that the Board has absolutely no responsibility to accommodate, which is giving the union a renewal before the March 27 Right to Work deadline. This is a HUGE advantage to the Board. EVERYTHING is being driven by this deadline now, including the amount the Board feels it can cut benefits in exchange for signing before March 27 and spreading out the pay cuts. The union has put the "fear of God" into their members that the Board is going to do all kinds of evil things to them if they don't sign now. In my opinion, they are doing their members a disservice just to save their "pay mandatory dues or be terminated without cause" contract language. I don't think the offer on the table is the best settlement that either side could reach absent the RTW deadline pressure. When is the last time that negotiators you can remember put their best offer on the table in the first go around? Just my thoughts on the issue.
Ahmed Ismail March 16, 2013 at 12:48 AM
David, A lot of what you have posted is right on the money. I, too, think that enough union members have been scared into voting for the proposed for it to pass on Monday. It won't be a 95% "yes", but the union management doesn't care as long as it is 51%. I don't know the political leanings on the Board members, so I really can't comment on that item. As far as this thread being a waste of time, if you are talking about turning the tide on the contract, you are right. I think there is win coming out of this thread. The "win" is that I think more people are becoming aware of what goes on in our school system and the financial issues we will be facing in the years to come. If that alone is accomplished, I will not consider the time I have invested in sharing my opinions and knowledge of the school system and learning the views of others who have commented in this comment thread a waste of time. Thank you.
Grosse Pointe March 16, 2013 at 12:48 AM
Teacher's salaries: "What yearly salary do you think would attract the type of new teacher you would want to teach your child?' AND "What yearly salary do you believe would be appropriate for a teacher of 20 + years? - One should consider when answering this question, 1.What salary do you believe would be strong enough to keep this teacher in the classroom & 2.What "top of the scale" salary do you believe would attract new teachers to our district. Remember: Teachers usually stay in the district where they begin teaching. Moving to another district would mean the teacher would start over at the bottom of the pay scale - experience is not honored as it is in the business world! Your answers might be in this form: New: $ ? Veteran: $ ?
Ahmed Ismail March 16, 2013 at 01:04 AM
Marcus--I stand corrected on my post I made on March 12 at 7:37pm in response to your post above. There was one other person from Grosse Pointe who went to China on the 2012 trip. It was Dr. Yue Ming, the district's Chinese teacher. I believe her trip was totally paid for by Hanban. As an aside, I neglected to mention in my prior post that the trio who went to China representing GPPSS came back with a $30,000 grant from the Hanban and the Government of China. Not a bad return on investment for a week's work for the three of them.
Anna March 16, 2013 at 02:03 AM
New: $30,000 - 40,000 depending on BA or MA Veteran: $75,000 - $80,000 with a cap in the mid $90,000 (assuming growth for cost of living in future years)
Chris K March 16, 2013 at 02:16 AM
Can you explain why a teacher that switches districts can't carry their experience with them and their salary. I have several ideas about this but I do not want to speculate.
Grosse Pointe March 16, 2013 at 02:36 AM
I never heard of why but this does give the district a lot of power.
MathFirst March 16, 2013 at 02:57 AM
Is base salary net of pension and health expenses. Remember young people are graduating with a significant amount of debt. Take home pay is the issue.
Anna March 16, 2013 at 03:49 AM
I would think it has to do with retention. It would discourage an educator from leaving a district for a better situation and encourage them to make a long-term commitment to one community.???. I would think a school board would want to reward an educator who is making a serious commitment to a community and not abuse this "power" over its employees. Recognizing commitment and effectiveness gives incentive to continue doing the same in the future.
Grosse Pointe March 16, 2013 at 09:10 PM
The district wants to pay its veteran teachers quite a bit less than what is being suggested by contributors to this blog and the other blog. It is better to ask "What do you think professionals who teach your children should be paid?" rather then to make general statements without amounts. I am worried that the Board of Education does not value teachers as much as the parents value the teachers AND that the Board would want the community to discuss salaries in general terms so that the Board can promote a negative feeling about teacher salaries.


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