Fennville Teachers' Contract Negotiations Are Ongoing
Fennville Public School teachers have been operating without a contract in the current year 2012-2013 and negotiations are ongoing.
The contract expired in June 2012. The bargaining that is taking place is for a current contract.
When asked how negotiations were progressing, Dirk Weeldreyer, Superintendent of Fennville Schools, would only comment, “I can’t talk about this. I’m sorry to stonewall you. Both sides are bargaining in good faith.”
Dan Madejcyk, Uniserve Director for the Michigan Education Association (MEA), says, “There are several issues to resolve around salaries, benefits, medical insurance and some language that must be eliminated from the contract. Each party has different views on the changes in language because of state law.”
Fennville remains the last district in the county currently negotiating a new contract, notes Madejcyk.
“I have all of Allegan County’s school districts and all the districts are settled except for Fennville. Fennville Public Schools has experienced some problems with student loss and less funding.
“This is not a situation where neither side is willing to bargain,” declares Madejcyk. “This is a long drawn-out process. Our next meeting with the bargaining team is April 12.”
Madejcyk and Fennville Education Association (FEA) President Michael McCullough, chair of the teachers group, and Superintendent Weeldreyer, are part of the bargaining team.
“We’ve been meeting for over a year,” says McCullough. “The board, a group of teachers, staff, Dan (Madejcyk), Dirk (Weeldreyer) and myself have been negotiating since last April.
“Presently we are negotiating on insurance for the employees and how much the district will pay; whether we will have a cap rate (set rate) or an 80-20 % rate. I can’t give numbers or percentages around salaries, but in 2009 teachers made concessions to help out the district,” he adds.
“Now we are in disagreement on financials. We have different views on both sides and we are trying to hammer it out. Teachers feel (that) based on fund balance, the district could make a better offer than what they are doing,” notes McCullough.
Regarding the Right to Work Act which will take effect on March 28 of this year, McCullough doesn’t feel it has any bearing on this local negotiation situation.
Sources say that some staff members are discontented about the state mandates surrounding health insurance and the pension changes. Some say they also believe that the administration is stonewalling until this becomes law.
McCullough doesn’t agree with.
“I don’t think Dirk is stonewalling on the negotiating. We have been bargaining since last April, before the Right to Work Act was voted on,” says McCullough.
“I don’t believe the Right to Work Act has delayed bargaining for this current year,” states Madejcyk.
Before the Right to Work Act was passed into law the teachers that are union members paid a mandatory agency service fee. Now the fee will be voluntary.
One Fennville Board of Education member - Jim Lytle - resigned this month. He plans on moving to Paw Paw in the near future.
“I think the negotiations are going as well as expected,” says Lytle. “When you have a union shop there is an ‘us/ them’ attitude. I don’t think Dirk and the school board want to screw the teachers.
“Dirk is trying to run a school. There needs to be a balance between the administration and employee issues.”
Lytle adds, “Dirk is doing a wonderful job. I can’t say enough good things about him. He is a very competent administrator.”