GRPS: A Teachers Agreement Has Been Reached

Posted at 10:10 PM, Mar 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-19 03:37:58-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich —   A tentative teachers agreement has been reached between Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) and the local teachers union.

Paul Helder, president of the Grand Rapids Education Association, announced at Monday’s school board meeting that a tentative agreement had been achieved just minutes earlier.

GRPS teachers have been working without a contract since the beginning of the school year. While both sides said the negotiations were not too messy, they seemed to agree 100 percent on one thing: a new deal had to be in place so district management and teachers can focus on the kids and move the district forward.

At this time, neither side is commenting on the details of the agreement. But teachers were concerned about high healthcare costs and being the lowest paid teachers in Kent Countys.

Helder said a meeting of teacher representatives is planned for Tuesday evening discuss the new terms of the contract.  They plan to vote on the deal March 25.

“This (agreement) will probably have an impact on morale,” Helder said, smiling. “Positive or negative, I guess is going to depend on what (the teachers) think of the deal.”

Some teachers are hoping to sign a deal before right-to-work goes into effect in Michigan on March 28. That way the new law doesn’t effect this new, three-year contract.

But Superintendent Neal is not worried about the calendar. “I want to do what’s best for the teachers and for students, so that date didn’t really affect me at all.”

Also on the agenda, the board adjusted its policies regarding teacher layoffs and transfers in order to comply with new Michigan law, which stripped those issues from collective bargaining. Now, layoffs and transfers will be solely up to administration.

“I will only do what’s right for children,” Neal stated.  “It’s unfortunate that there are adult issues that get in the way … but I’m going to do what’s best for this district.”

According to the new state law, evaluations, job performance, and absences will be taken into account, instead of tenure, when it comes to layoffs.

Helder said the new polices could result in a lawsuit, especially when it comes to a teacher’s sick days. “To suggest that a layoff will be tied into an evaluation process that may or may not be corrupted in some way is problematic,” he told the board.

After the meeting, Neal promised to be fair when it comes to making those decisions.

“I respect tenure,” she said. “There is place for seniority. Longevity is important to me, but it is not a determining factor in what’s best for children.”

Also announced at the meeting, Superintendent Neal received 93 out of 100 points in her first annual evaluation, earning a “highly effective” rating.   She told FOX 17 she is pleased to serve the district and is just focused on the work, not her score.