FARGO — Fargo teachers made a passionate plea Monday night, May 13, to solidify their part in developing workplace safety, citing rising incidents in which educators are injured because of behavioral incidents involving students.
As of May 6, Fargo Public Schools has recorded 630 student behavioral incidents in which a staff member was injured, according to school data presented Monday during teacher contract negotiations. That surpassed last year’s count of 583.
“Parents are screaming out. Teachers are screaming out. Other students are terrified when hearing a student is coming back after two days after beating a staff member in front of them.” Fargo Education Association negotiator Jenifer Mastrud said. “This is not OK. Teachers need to (have) a voice.
“You want to make this better? You need to step up and do it now.”
Mastrud’s words drew applause from a crowd of teachers as FEA representatives exchanged barbs with the school board’s negotiation team. There was little progress made on approving clauses in teacher contracts, with most of the topics brought up during Monday's 2 ½-hour session tabled.
But a heated point of contention was writing into the contracts that the association would be a partner in the safety committee, meaning it would be involved in developing and implementing safety training procedures and protocols. The conversation to improve workplace safety for teachers and get representation in crafting policy has gone on for several years.
“We think this is a committee that is working right now that has brought us good recommendations,” John Rodenbiker, a board member who chaired discussions for the district, said when explaining why the board would not accept the proposal.
Rodenbiker argued teachers have a voice, as they are allowed to bring forward recommendations. Those recommendations may not be implemented the following year or at all, he admitted.
But the safety committee still listens to them, Rodenbiker said.
"We are not saying no to teacher voice," he said. "We are saying no to this proposal."
The FEA argued there was a lack of consistency for standards from building to building.
“We are very passionate about this because we know our students need a safe learning environment,” Mastrud said.
No decision was made on salary and benefits.
Teachers are asking for a 3 percent increase for salaries in the 2019-20 school year and 2 percent for 2020-21. The school board proposed, for the most part, a 1 percent increase for all cells in 2019-20 and a 1.5 percent jump in 2020-21. There are added increases to certain levels of education and years of experience, but overall, the proposal would mean a 3.05 percent increase in salary and benefits cost for 2019-20 and a 3.39 percent jump in 2020-21.