Dexter teachers respond to superintendent's statement

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Dexter teachers and support personnel respond after reading the statement from Dexter Community Schools Superintendent Chris Timmis in The Sun Times News (STN) article issued on May 11.

The article was titled, “The Dexter Board of Education hears teachers' concerns about being properly valued and compensated.”

Both sides of the table were quoted in that story with Timmis and Dexter Education Association President Jessica Baese and Dexter Educational Support Personnel Association President Frances Bastion responding to STN when asked about recent comments made by Dexter teachers at school board meetings.

This story again gives both sides the opportunity to respond.

In the May 11 story, 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.”

Here is the follow up statement sent to STN on May 13, from Dexter Education Association President Jessica Baese and Dexter Educational Support Personnel Association President Frances Bastion:

“As leaders of the Dexter Education Association and Dexter Educational Support Personnel Association, we were extremely disappointed to see details from our confidential bargaining sessions shared publicly by Superintendent Chris Timmis in the Sun Times News. His comments violated bargaining norms verbally agreed to by DEA, DESPA and the district team. What’s more, the suggestion by Dr. Timmis that teachers and support personnel are being misinformed by their bargainers is inaccurate and appears to reflect a dismissive attitude that gets us no closer to fair contracts.”

“We hope that as negotiations proceed, we can more collaboratively work toward contracts that are in the best interest of our entire school community.”

In the previous story, the DEA and DESPA issued a joint statement that read:

“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.”

STN reached out to Timmis on May 13 and asked him if he wanted to respond to the follow up and he emailed the following back:

“As a school district, we value every DCS employee. Everyone at Dexter Community Schools is dedicated to our kids and their education. We will continue to work with our employee groups to support our employees within the resources provided by the local taxpayers and the State of Michigan.”

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