They stand up at end of meeting, ask for a fair contract settlement as soon as possible
The audience at recent Crookston School Board meetings in the CHS choir/orchestra rooms has been significantly larger than usual, as many teachers have attended in an effort to show solidarity as their bargaining unit, the Crookston Education Association, continues to negotiate a new contract with the board.
Negotiations earlier this year reached a stalemate and a mediator from the Twin Cities was subsequently brought in. While Superintendent Chris Bates sounded optimistic a couple months ago that a new accord was being forged, things have gotten pretty quiet of late.
At the conclusion of Monday's board meeting, CEA members kicked the solidarity effort up a notch. When board chair Frank Fee, as he typically does before adjourning a meeting, asked if anyone in the audience wanted to address the board, third grade teacher Andrea Ingersoll asked if she could speak. When Fee gave her the floor, all of the teachers in attendance stood in unison while Ingersoll, saying she was speaking on behalf of the CEA, asked that the board and Superintendent Chris Bates "please work toward coming to a fair contract settlement with us as soon as possible." Ingersoll thanked the board for their "timely consideration and response to this request."
Fee told Ingersoll that Bates would be directed to form a response to the CEA's request.
While salary levels and other issues previously appeared to be largely agreed to in the contract being negotiated, the health insurance benefits package has continued to be a point of contention between CEA and school board negotiators.
No retirement party
When he retired after a long career as an English teacher, board member Dave Davidson said near the end of Monday's meeting, some of his fondest memories were made at the teacher retirement party/reception, which is typically held on a Friday evening in late May at the Eagles Club.
But this year, with special education teacher Kris Derosier, CHS counselor Jackie Robertson and swimming pool Manager Ken Stromberg set to retire, a reception honoring the trio will be held after school in the CHS commons on Wednesday, May 14, with no party at the Eagles in the works.
Davidson said that was disappointing to him. "I thought it was a really good time and was worth the effort," he said. "I don't like putting out the impression that we don't value our people. I understand it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I had a really, really good time and I know others did as well."
Business Manager Laura Lyczewski said it was her understanding that Derosier, Robertson and Stromberg were asked about their preference, and the consensus was "something quieter" than the reception at the Eagles and, thus, Wednesday's event in the CHS commons was scheduled.
Asked by the Times, Robertson responded Tuesday that she and Derosier did indicate they preferred an after-school reception. She wasn’t sure about Stromberg’s preference.
Two second grade teachers needed
The board on Monday accepted the resignation of two second-grade teachers, Erika Johnson and Renae Lindgren. Citing the particular importance of having experienced teachers in the youngest grades, Davidson suggested that current teachers on staff possibly be approached about their potential interest in sliding into the available second year teaching positions.
Bates said that typically is a matter handled by the school principal. In this case, he said Highland School Principal Lela Olson could put a feeler out for any teachers potentially interested in the second grade positions.
The board approved a three-year agreement with a new photography vendor, Behls Photography of Grand Forks, after having Dean Knutson of LeMar Photography handle the district's photography needs for many years.
Bates said other photography firms for years have checked in with the district to gauge interest in being able to bid for the district's services, but nothing has ever gone beyond that. But this year, the superintendent said, a week before school pictures were to be taken, the Crookston job was subcontracted out, with the district having no say in the matter. "There was no phone call, and there was no agreement in place for us to stop that from happening," Bates said.
So steps were taken to put the district's photography services up for bids. One of the steps involved a public meeting last week, which Bates said drew a very small audience. "Some of the bids were very close, but (Behls) was the one people thought was best to go with," Bates said. "Three years from now, we'll mirror this same process. I think it's probably pretty healthy for us to do this every once in a while."
Lyczewski said four local photography firms were given the opportunity to bid, but they each determined that the scope of the job was a bit beyond their means.
Although LeMar Photography is still listed as being a Crookston business, Bates said Knutson now resides in Ada.
• Bates reported that Eric Bubna, hired earlier this month as new CHS principal, will be making a visit to Crookston this Friday and he and his wife, Kaia, have made an offer on a home in Crookston. They currently reside in Elk River, Minn., where Bubna is an administrative dean at a charter school.
The couple has five children.
• Bates reminded everyone that, because of the construction projects that need to start in the school buildings as soon as possible, the last day of school at Washington and Highland schools will be Friday, May 23. The last day of school at CHS will be the following Thursday, May 29. Bates also noted that during the final three days of school at CHS following Memorial Day, a full bus schedule will continue.