Group of Minnesota Teachers Take on School Board with Ultimatum
The Plainview-Elgin-Millville (PEM) teachers union has given their own school board an ultimatum calling them "out of touch, unsupportive, and highly motivated by personal agendas."
What's going on? Starting this Friday, teachers in the union won't be doing extra jobs beyond what's in their contract. This means they won't be filling in for each other in classrooms. This could in turn force the district's hand to place students in large group settings for supervision when legal substitutes cannot be found.
At this point, the 102 teachers who are part of the union are standing their ground with these ultimatums and will continue to take additional actions until they see "more support from the school board."
What are the terms of the ultimatum?
One that caught my attention immediately was a request for a public apology to a long-time teacher and softball coach at the school. There is mention of harassment and a rumor he was on the chopping block. Ben Peter was my coach AND teacher in high school, so hearing there was talk of him being let go really ruffled my feathers. I feel that would be a tremendous loss for the school district.
Another, is something I think we can ALL agree on - teachers everywhere are grossly underpaid. According to the press release, the PEM teachers are asking for "a sustainable pay raise that is well below the cost of living increases, and that is in line with other state and local increases. The teachers are also asking that they do not need to lose benefits to simply get adequate pay."
Lastly, they are asking that the "coaches committee" be dissolved. This committee, according to the press release (you can in its entirety read below) was formed with no teachers, coaches, or the athletic director from the school. They want it to be dissolved until a time at which it can be properly and fairly constructed in a way that serves to help the school, students, and coaches in a positive manner.
The PEM Teacher's Union took to their Facebook page to get the word out with this post:
To the PEM Community,
The teachers of PEM care greatly about our students, school, and about public education. We are also very passionate about what we do, and we work hard to protect both the students and staff at PEM. Due to the PEM School Board’s recent actions and inactions, the PEM Teachers’ Union has been forced to take its own actions for the betterment of our school.
Starting Friday, December 1st all members of the PEM Teachers’ Union will no longer voluntarily substitute for each others’ classrooms or do additional voluntary coverage during the school day. Teachers will still complete all contractual duties (like teaching and coaching) but will not provide coverage beyond normal classroom assignments. We do understand that this will cause classrooms to be uncovered and force the district to place students in large group settings for supervision when legal substitutes cannot be found. In addition, the PEM Teachers’ Union will continue to take additional actions every Friday until the School Board starts actively supporting our teachers, staff, and students.
The teachers of PEM would much rather be teaching than dealing with such matters. We do not make these decisions lightly, but feel they are being forced upon us by a school board that is out of touch, unsupportive, and highly motivated by personal agendas. The PEM Teachers’ Union will cease these actions when the PEM School Board completes the following three steps:
1. The PEM School Board faithfully reaches a respectable and fair contract with the teachers. All the teachers are asking for is a sustainable pay raise that is well below the cost of living increases, and that is in line with other state and local increases. The teachers are also asking that they do not need to lose benefits to simply get adequate pay.
2. The PEM School Board dissolves the so-called “Coaches Committee” until a time at which it can be properly and fairly constructed in a way that serves to actually help our school, students, and coaches in a positive manner.
3. The PEM School Board makes a public apology to the Peter Family for the recent targeting and harassment of teacher/coach Ben Peter.
Again, these issues have been forced upon the teachers, students, and community by the school board. If you have concerns, we encourage you, the public, to contact the school board and make sure they actually listen and reply to your concerns. They are elected public servants that should be leading our school in a positive, constructive, and supportive manner.
This is an unfortunate situation, but hopefully the current leadership can step up and get our schools back to being a proud pillar of our community. Everyone should remember that “Our community is only as strong as our school, and our school is only as strong as our teachers.” The members of the PEM Teachers’ Union thank you for your support.
The PEM Teachers’ Union
This resolution was passed unanimously by the PEMEA on Tuesday, November 21st.
The school district’s superintendent, Darrin Strosahl, told KAAL that he hopes that everyone can come to some sort of resolution and wants the board and staff to get along. The school leaders are planning to meet with union members on December 4th.
PEMEA Media Statement:
"PEMEA stands for Plainview-Elgin-Millville Education Association. This is the local teachers’ union of PEM schools and has 102 members Contract Negotiations- PEM teachers have been working without a contract since July 2023. PEM teachers have been negotiating with the district since June. No agreement has been reached causing both sides to move to meditation on December 19th.
PEM teachers are asking for compensation and benefits that are well below inflation (cost of living increases) and in line with state and local averages. The district continues to ask teachers to take a loss in benefits to receive a basic pay raise.
The PEM district has built up a large fund balance (a savings account of over 2 million dollars). PEM can afford to invest in its educators and its students after years of shortchanging both. PEM school district ranks in the bottom 5% in spending per student in the state, yet the school performs near the top -- teachers are consistently doing more with less.
Concerns About Coaches Committee- This so-called Coaches Committee was formed hastily and without clarity or transparency. The school board's website did not even list it as a committee nor are any board members listed as members on the committee. The school website did not list a public notice that this committee was meeting. No official resolution, agenda, or even bylaws about the committee were ever posted at the time it met.
The committee membership is suspect. It does not include our athletic director. It does not include a single person that ever has seen the actual coach in question coaching. It is one of our only school committees that does not include a teacher, parent or community member. Yet it does include one school board member who coaches for an opposing school. There was no due process.
The committee quickly targeted a teacher/coach of 22 years. The committee asked him to resign, take a half-year suspension, or be voted out by the board publicly. The committee and our administration did not follow the legal guidelines set up by the Minnesota State High School League 400.00 Bylaws and our district policy 403. We can’t tell if the committee even followed its own bylaws (if there are even any) because they have never been posted.
The teacher/coach in question has never been given a chance to defend himself or was even asked any questions by the committee. The only documentation presented was two complaints about playing time dating back five years. The board appears to be targeting this teacher.
One of the two documents involves complaints about playing time. This complaint came from a current board member. She has continued to work outside of her authority to harass this teacher. This teacher is also an outspoken member of the PEM teachers’ union negotiation team and now all of a sudden his coaching job of 22 years is being called into question."
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