Griffith settlement means less pay for some teachers
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent August 9, 2013 9:16AM
Charter School of the Dunes grades 6-8 history teacher Matthew Wojas explains a course outline to parent Tannette Scott who has an eighth-grader and junior at the school in Gary. The newly-constructed school held an open house Friday and opens Monday. | Post-Tribune photo
Updated: September 11, 2013 6:08AM
GRIFFITH — A settled grievance between the Griffith Federation of Teachers and the Griffith Public Schools will result in many of its teachers receiving considerably less pay the next two years.
Superintendent Peter Morikis read a statement to the School Board at its Thursday night meeting that said the grievance, filed May 6 to settle a dispute over two existing collective bargaining agreements, resulted in the administration having to decline a $150,000 “Excellence in Performance” grant for which it applied through the Indiana Department of Education. The renewable grant would have awarded teachers receiving “Highly Effective” and “Effective” evaluations a stipend of between $1,600 and $2,000 for the 2012-13 school year.
In the grievance, GFT argued the second collective bargaining agreement, which expires June 30, 2015, is the contract its members wanted to remain, Morikis said. The first collective bargaining agreement expired June 30.
GFT President Tracy Whitman, in an email Friday, said of the decision that “some things are more important to teachers than money, and there were a lot of teachers’ rights that were protected in the current contract like working conditions that the teaching body voted to retain.”
Had GFT renegotiated the first collective bargaining agreement under new state guidelines — which stipulate contracts must allow for evaluation-based payments or raises — the teachers would have received the stipend money this fall. But because the 2015 contract still uses a compensation model based on level of schooling and years on the job, the school corporation “would not be able to fulfill this provision of the grant.”
“We advised GFT on numerous occasions that the return of the grant’s $150,000 would be required if the 2015 contract remained in place,” Morikis read in his statement Thursday. “Knowing this, GFT ... maintained its postion that it wishes to keep the 2015 contract in place.
“We regret that the teachers will not be receiving payments from the grant in the fall of 2013, but trust that GFT had their best interests in mind in insisting that the 2015 contract remain in effect.”
The grant money, however, isn’t the only pay the 2015 contract quashes. That contract contains a “sunset clause” that rolls back the teachers’ pay schedule to 2010-2011 levels. As a result, a large percentage of Griffith’s 110 teachers will see less take-home pay for the next two years until they renegotiate in 2015.
“In the 2013 contract, many teachers had a stipend and a whole different salary schedule,” Morikis said. “This is an unfortunate situation for the Griffith teachers and the school system.”
Morikis said he believes GFT wanted the 2015 contract because it keeps the school day at its current length. The elementary day is from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the middle and high school day starts at 7:45 a.m. and goes to 3 p.m.
The administration in May presented to GFT leadership a 45-minute increase to the high school and middle school day, and an hour to the elementary school day. Had it been implemented, everyone would have been working the same amount of time, he said.