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The Daily



10-29-03: Minster teachers confront school board


MINSTER — Both school board and Minster Teachers Association members vented frustrations over the stalled contract talks during Tuesday’s board meeting.
The 67 teachers in the union, all who attended the meeting, have been working 120 days under their old contract that expired July 1 and was extended after the two sides could not agree on a new contract. The union already has filed the paperwork to strike if an agreement is not penned in a few months, teachers told the media last week.
Board members at the meeting told the crowd of 370 they were disappointed that the union is making the negotiations and their complaints public.
Union Co-President Tad Colbeck was given a half-hour at the meeting to speak about the teachers’ contributions. He was interrupted three times by board President Carol Ranly, who reminded him not to talk about the conflict and only about the teachers’ contributions.
Two-thirds of the way through Colbeck’s speech, the board cut him off and said his time was up. He asked to continue, but the board denied it. Board members said Colbeck could continue after the public had time for questions. But after the question session, the board left the meeting for an executive session and did not listen to Colbeck finish his presentation.
During Colbeck’s speech, he pointed out that while the school is in the top 70 in performance, Minster teachers ranked 253rd in salary in the state.
School board members responded with a worksheet showing that Minster teachers’ base salary was the highest in the area in 2002-2003, but the union objected to the numbers saying that is no longer true since most schools in the area already received raises.
Colbeck added that declining salaries and benefits will drive teachers away. He said the teachers already agreed to cuts, but had to draw a line somewhere.
“We feel our concerns are fair,” Colbeck said.
Board member Ted Beckman said he felt the union’s perception that the board did not appreciate teachers was incorrect.
“I just want to say I have never, never not appreciated what the teachers do for us,” Beckman said. “They do a great job. We are pleased with the success of our students. The board believes it has a responsibility to all of these parties that we can provide an education at what we can afford. We are looking to fairly and accurately compensate our entire staff.”
Later in the meeting, Beckman again said he was proud of the job the teachers do, but added “there are some schools getting 22 of 22 on the report card with less pay, and more students per teacher and not as good of facilities.”
In the question and answer session, each person was given three minutes to speak. Teachers and students made the majority of the statements, with a few residents speaking.
“Our teachers do a great job,” one student said. “If they want more money, just give it to them.”
Resident Dave Knapke said he was disappointed the potential strike issue has been a topic in classrooms.
“They are intelligent young adults who want to know what is going on,” teacher Jeff Rasawehr answered. “They have questions.”
John Beckman, brother of board member Ted Beckman, argued that while the teachers needed to be fairly compensated, the board had to be fiscally responsible. When his three minutes to talk were up and he attempted to continue, several teachers jeered that his time was up and the board should stop his presentation.
“We let Mr. Colbeck go over his time,” Ted Beckman said. “What’s the difference?”
Colbeck challenged the board to go to binding arbitration to resolve contract differences, but the board did not comment. Colbeck said the failure to comment was due to the board knowing that an arbitrator likely would side with the teachers.
Board members refused to answer any questions publicly about the negotiations.
“We regret that the teachers association has gone to the press,” Ted Beckman said. “We have attempted to work this out through the proper channels, not through the press. Our agreement is that information released to the press is to be agreed on by both parties, and this was breached.”


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