The Dexter Board of Education hear teachers' concerns about being properly valued and compensated

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Hoping for better, competitive wages while feeling undervalued, or a misunderstanding as to where things are with the current negotiations.

The past couple of Dexter school board meetings have some in the community wondering about the teachers who have gone before the board during the meetings' public comment  periods to give their perspectives on things such as wage comparisons with neighboring districts, feeling undervalued and what that means for staff morale.

After the May 2 meeting, The Sun Times News (STN) reached out to DCS Superintendent Chris Timmis and the teachers’ union to get their views of the situation.

STN asked Timmis: What is the response to the teachers' concerns expressed at the meeting? What is the status of the current teacher contract agreement? What would you like the community to know about this?

Timmis said by email:

“Thank you for reaching out. We have two collective bargaining groups where the members do not appear to be accurately informed of the status of the negotiations.”

“For example, with DESPA (Dexter Educational Support Personnel Association), we've offered as early as February to move our special education paras pay to $16 per hour and $17 per hour based on experience at DCS. This was offered to become effective immediately. It's now May and we still haven't reached an agreement to be able to give a significant increase in pay for our special education parapros. This increase is significant for our staff and we've been offering to make the change effective immediately instead of in July. Currently, our special education paraeducators who make $12.39 per hour would move to $16 per hour. Our special education paraeducators who make $13.95 or $14.47 per hour would move to $17 per hour. In addition, we've offered to create a classification of 8-hour-per-day paraeducators who would make the $16 or $17 per hour plus health benefits. Unfortunately, we do not believe their representatives are accurately informing the paraeducators.”

“With regard to teachers, we have similar concerns that our teachers aren't being accurately informed. On an annual basis, the step system in the teacher contract provides an average of a 2.5% increase for a cost of an additional $650,000 per year. We've shared that we can provide increases of a total of around $1.6 million structural or "on-schedule" between steps and percentage increases on the salary schedule. In addition, we've offered another $500,000+ "off-schedule" that could become permanent if our enrollment increases and funding can sustain it. We've also offered additional stipends for special education teachers and other financial offers to pay our teachers as the professionals they are who do an incredible job with our kids.”

“Over the next month, we'll reach an agreement. We've always had a great relationship with our employee groups and will continue to work collaboratively to reach an agreement.”

STN also reached out to the teachers union (the Dexter Education Association) and DESPA:

Here is the joint statement from Dexter Education Association President Jessica Baese and Dexter Educational Support Personnel Association President Frances Bastion:

“In a worsening school employee shortage, when it’s getting harder and harder to attract and retain excellent staff, our teachers and support personnel need to be compensated adequately and feel valued by the administration.”

“The individuals who have attended and spoken at recent school board meetings want exactly what the DEA and DESPA bargainers are trying to negotiate: a salary structure that’s competitive with our peer districts in Washtenaw County.”

“In many ways – in educational achievement, demographics, and state financial support – Dexter, Chelsea, and Saline are similar. For teachers, Dexter’s pay scale lags that in Saline and Chelsea by an average of 10 percent at the bachelor’s education level and by 13 percent at the master’s education level. We also trail Saline and Chelsea in district financial contributions toward employee health insurance. And Dexter’s support personnel are among the lowest-paid school personnel groups in the county.”

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