MOORHEAD — Six members of Moorhead’s teacher union, Education Moorhead, met with six district administration and representatives of the Board of Education on Tuesday, Aug. 13, to negotiate the 2019-2021 teacher contract but came to no conclusions.
"We came to the table with some lofty goals," Blake Plankers, special education teacher and negotiator, told The Forum. "But we're still in the beginning stages."
Education Moorhead focused on several key components based on input from district teachers, including student and staff safety, class size, pay for early childhood and adult educators, as well as compensation, including salary, retirement contributions and health insurance.
The union is hoping the new contract will include all early education and adult learning educators, who are not currently on the same pay scale as traditional classroom teachers, which adds to retention issues in the district.
"There's nothing to incentivize them to get continuing education or to stay with the district," Plankers told The Forum.
Behavior and discipline policies were also major talking points.
Behavior is becoming a bigger issue in Moorhead, said Karen Taylor, Education Moorhead chief negotiator and a language arts teacher at Horizon Middle School.
Union members presented several issues with discipline, including the lack of follow-through when students are disciplined and removed from classrooms. The union asked the board to help establish a framework for communication on discipline and more information about developing restorative justice in schools.
Lead negotiator with the district, Kristin Dehmer, told the union that the district was working on restorative justice practices, but said she couldn't provide more information to the union at the time.
“We need to have some sort of an answer,” Blake Plankers responded. “It may seem like we’re being impatient, but the kids that have these needs have these needs now, not a year from now."
Several counselors in schools are utilizing the practices, but restorative justice isn't being implemented on a wide scale, Plankers said. The union hopes to increase non-punitive discipline measures, like restorative justice.
The board did not bring a counter-proposal but discussed changes to language in several points from the union, including language about reimbursing teachers for traveling to events, providing hourly leave and reimbursing teachers for moving classrooms.
Moorhead’s previous contract ended on June 30. This contract will continue into the current school year until a new contract is agreed upon. Negotiators plan to meet again later in the month.
Readers can reach education reporter Emma Beyer, a Report For America corps member, at 701-241-5535 or email@example.com.