Stewartville teachers share frustrations about contract negotiations with the school board

Contract Negotiations Stall at Stewartville Schools

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(ABC 6 News) – Frustration filled the room at Jan. 22’s school board meeting. From current teacher to retiring staff and parents, everyone had something to say when it comes to the contract dispute.

For more than 200 days, teachers in Stewartville have been working without a contract.

With the school year more than halfway over and no resolutions in sight, teachers are anxious.

The teachers’ union says board members are refusing to increase longevity pay for teachers with 15+ years in the district.

“Currently, the rate is set at $500. We’re asking for that to double, to be $1000,” SUE co-president Charlie Aitken said.

Teachers say the increased salary is due to the rising cost of health insurance and they’re seeking a 4.5% percent increase in pay for the first year and a 3.5% increase for the second.

“We love Stewartville, and we want to be here for a very long time but it’s becoming extremely hard to justify that staying here is the right decision for my family,” Stewartville boys basketball head coach and teacher Parker Lyga said.

He says the justification is due to the rising cost of health insurance.

With a baby on the way, it’s a tough road ahead.

“Our health insurance rates grew by 26% we were given 10 days to make a decision of what we were going to take, and obviously with my wife and I expecting a child we had to choose the family insurance because we both work in the district.”

For others like Teri Simmons, the issue lies in benefits.

She came back to work in the district not knowing the retirement money she earned would vanish.

“Being a veteran teacher from Stewartville really didn’t mean that much, I realized that I was supposed to pay my own health insurance out of my own pocket, and then they were going to freeze my benefits of being a retired teacher until I was no longer actively employed.”

Despite heavy debating, no compromise was on the table.

“Our current standings with our last offer and the board’s last offer sets us apart by approximately $600,000,” Aitken said.

The school board will take what they heard at tonight’s meeting into consideration as they’ll meet with the union on Thursday for a mediation session.