Lindbergh teachers accuse district of not bargaining in good faith

LNEA requests negotiations be reopened

By Mike Anthony

Lindbergh Schools teachers Tuesday night accused district officials and Board of Education members of not bargaining in good faith, and said they are prepared to take legal action if negotiations are not reopened.

Several teachers, speaking on behalf of the Lindbergh National Education Association, or LNEA, asked district officials to reopen negotiations at Tuesday night’s meeting, which attracted a standing-room only audience comprised primarily of district teachers.

But Superintendent Jim Simpson told the Call that negotiations will not be reopened “for the simple fact that our 2015-’16 budget is in operation. That budget is now being played out. Money is being apportioned by that budget. It is in play.

“There were months to get something done. It wasn’t done, and now business has to come down to business …”

In June, the Board of Education adopted the 2015-2016 operating budget that provided an average raise of 3.2 percent for all district employees. The budget also projects a surplus of $449.

LNEA members voted 182-23 to reject the 3.2-percent salary increase. Teachers sought a 3.5-percent salary increase — an additional $29,000 — which unless other items were cut would have resulted in a deficit budget.

“LNEA believes that the district has not bargained in good faith, something it has legally been required to do since 2007,” Sperreng Middle School teacher Gretchen Moser told the board during a period for public comment. “Good-faith bargaining is the legal right of all Missouri public employees. Though the board policy says that the negotiations should take place between Feb. 1 and June 1, the agreement between the teachers and the district states that matters will not be discussed again until the regularly scheduled negotiations, except by mutual agreement.

“The teachers have asked to do so, but the district has refused,” she continued. “And the teachers are prepared to seek legal action if the district continues that stance. We hope the district will reconsider …”

Lindbergh High School teacher Shana Kelley told the board, “… Now most of us didn’t pursue education for the money, we wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. Over the past few years, the district has been proud of earning that No. 1 status in academic achievement and we should stand proud.

“However, our (salary) schedule does not reflect a district that produces this accolade. Let me put it in perspective, when I came here 10 years ago from Rockwood, I received a pay raise and the Lindbergh schedule was promising. But did you know the difference between Step 10 in 2006 and 2007 and Step 10 during the last school year was $211 — $211 in eight years for the same step. Now I recognize that I have received a step (increase) year every year, but to me $211 doesn’t make up for inflation for the Step 10 that I would be on …”

The teachers’ salary schedule includes channels and steps. Channels denote a teacher’s level of education. Each channel also includes steps that represent each year a teacher has worked.

While not all Lindbergh teachers received a 3.2-percent salary increase, all teachers did receive a step increase for the 2015-2016 school year.

Simpson disputed the LNEA’s accusation that district officials and the board have not been bargaining in good faith.

“… We believe that we have not only bargained in good faith, that we’ve probably been a model of how to do that,” he said. “We’ve met many, many times over months. We’ve reminded the NEA of deadlines. We’ve encouraged them to meet those deadlines. It gets down to at a certain point in time, the board has to put in place the budget and has to set in motion a new school year financially.

“And you just can’t keep going with negotiations on and on and on.”

As for the 3.2-percent salary increase, Simpson termed it “generous and fair.”

“And also, it was every last penny that we had,” he said, noting the approved budget projects a surplus of $449. “Lindbergh is noted for its financial stewardship. We do not give salary increases based on a deficit budget. We do not go into reserves for continuing salary costs …”

Over the past two years, Lindbergh teachers have received “the largest salary increases in the region,” the superintendent said, noting that teachers a received a 5.3-percent pay increase last year.

Coupled with this year’s 3.2-percent hike, that is an 8.5-percent pay raise over two years, Simpson said.