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Lakeville's Teachers Rally, Seek Contract Approval

Current contract stalemate is over healthcare premiums.

Nearly 50 of Lakeville's teachers packed the Jan. 10 School Board meeting in an ongoing effort to get a contract between the teacher's union and the School Board approved.

Lakeville's teachers have been , and negotiations have stalled out due to a battle over healthcare premiums, which the district is looking to increase.

One of the many speakers to talk directly to the board was Brian Vossen, a teacher at and 's varsity football coach.

"If we haven’t lost enough, now we have to fight for our healthcare," he said, referencing the 216 teachers that have been let go since 2007 due to budget cuts. 

"Settle the contract. Give us the healthcare we deserve," he pleaded.

Teachers have been rallying at board meetings for a number of months, pushing for a contract approval.

Rebecca Chamberlain, a social studies teacher at , praised her colleagues for "shouldering the load" while hundreds of teachers have been cut over recent years.

"(There have been) 216 teachers cut since 2007, yet we have the same number of students," she said. She also pointed to teachers waiving millions in staff development dollars over recent years, lowering the renewal rate on healthcare, and taking soft pay freezes in recent contracts, all while increasing student achievement, and other academic measures.

"In the business world, this would be rewarded," she said.

The teacher's union, Education Minnesota Lakeville, and the Lakeville School Board have met a number of times to negotiate a pact, but EML President Don Sinner says the disagreements seem to be a matter of philosophy.

Not only does the district want to is also a stumbling block.

"We have many, many teachers in the high school ranks teaching 210 kids and more during their day, whereas before that it used to be in the 150-170 range. That’s a tremendous workload increase," Sinner said at a previous board meeting.

Currently, teachers have 275 minutes of prep time a week, which isn't enough, according to Sinner, for teachers who have watched class sizes increase with the layoffs of 16.5 percent of the teaching staff over the past five years.

Members of the School Board declined to comment for this story because negotiations are still ongoing.

Jason January 12, 2012 at 03:38 PM
I work closely with my kids' school as a volunteer and a member of the PTO, and it gives me the good fortune to work closely with their teachers, staff and administrators on a regular basis. It also gives me frequent exposure to what actually goes on within the classrooms in Lakeville. From what I see, our kids are truly blessed to be taught by one of the most hard working, dedicated and selfless teams of educators I've known. The task they face is daunting - significantly increased class sizes, constantly evolving and changing guidelines on how to teach and what to accomplish, elimination of support staff, expanding diversity of backgrounds and skill levels within classes, and heightened community expectations and scrutiny as a result of the inevitable blending of politics and education in our city. I watch these teachers and staff, and I am thankful every day there are people who love our kids this much, and who are willing to make the obvious sacrifices needed to educate in today's public schools.
Jason January 12, 2012 at 03:46 PM
We should be ashamed to be boasting about adding technology and new educational techniques - and their associated costs - all while working hard to dismantle the benefits, salary and ranks of our teachers. There is certainly room for both, and giving our kids the most modern tools to learn should be a priority. But even the most experienced and ardent supporter of the incorporation of technology and new tools into our kids' curriculum will acknowledge that these techiques, tools and new approaches to learning still hinge largely on the quality and capabilities of the teachers standing behind it all. In our public school system, we should all be keenly aware of how important our teachers are, and more importantly, how crucial a role education plays in the current and future welfare and security of our communities and nation as a whole. We toss these words around a lot, but do we really understand and accept that reality? If we want to take the next step in the evolution of our approach to learning and teaching, Lakeville's voters must share in this commitment and step up. Until that time, we must make it our first priority that our teachers continue to be adequately compensated, and that a proper level of incentive exists to ensure future educators are not turned away from this vital profession. Those who continue to argue that teachers work short days and short years haven't set foot in a Lakeville classroom recently, and I'd encourage them to do so. You'll be amazed.
anne christenson January 12, 2012 at 11:35 PM
The world's most successful companies have learned that taking care of their employees helps everyone and pays dividends in the end. Authoritarian systems and leaders create unrest, poor health, distrust, division, and poor productivity. Productivity in schools is not measured in dollars, but in our future - Our educated, healthy, and well-adjusted children become happy parents, leaders, and employees. Our schools need our best, but teachers continue to have to do more with less. We have nothing but great things to say about our son's experiences and education through the Lakeville Schools. We know these experiences are the direct result of quality teachers who care and bring out the best in our kids. Our teachers need fair contracts and need our support in these difficult times.

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