The Sparta school board and the Sparta Education Association are waiting for the state to set a date for a meeting with a factfinder in the continued struggle to settle a contract for the district’s teachers.
The two sides last met with a state mediator on Dec. 9, 2021.
School board negotiations committee chair Christa Sorenson said the teachers union asked for a 4.12 percent salary increase in the first year, and that the board counter-offered with 3.38 percent and did not ask for any other contract revisions.
She said the SEA asked for a 3.2 percent salary increase per year, and that the board offered: a 2.6 percent after the first year and a 2.5 percent after the second and third years, and a $40,000 per-year increase in the line item for secretaries. She said the SEA asked for yearly increase to extracurricular and coaching stipends, but the school board offered a one-time increase.
Sorenson also said the teachers asked for 100 fewer minutes per week of a negotiated, contractual teaching team for elementary teachers, to which the board did not agree “due to the tremendous amount of learning loss and discussion with administrators.”
Both sides did agree to a phased-in reduction of class load for special education teachers.
‘We are your neighbors’
“It’s a complicated process,” Sorenson said. “Not every item was agreed to, nor can that be expected to be.”
SEA President Sue Sawey called Sorenson’s update “absolutely misstatements of fact in the way you had presented them” but declined to go into further detail.
“I’m not going to go on about the stress and anxiety that our staff has been under, especially in the last few weeks with our pivoting from in-person to virtual instruction.”
Sorenson said the school board is not to be blamed for the pace of negotiations, as both sides are at the mercy of the state schedule.
“We are your neighbors,” Sorenson said. “We are moms and dads with children in these schools. We are taxpayers. We want nothing more than a community that is united in the best interests of our students and have teachers and staff that are supported.”
Several parents who spoke at the school board meeting backed the SEA.
Sparta resident Tammy Mongon alluded to the school board’s earlier stated goal of improving communication and improving the public’s perception of it. She said the school board could do that by settling the teachers’ contract.
“Please stop asking us to be sympathetic of the fact that you are community members, and that your feelings need to be respected,” Mongon said. “I’m asking you to please do your jobs and change these perceptions. It’s time to settle the teachers’ contract.”