Negotiations Continue Over Laurel Teachers' Contracts - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Negotiations Continue Over Laurel Teachers' Contracts

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LAUREL, De. - The last time teachers within the Laurel school district had contracts was in 2010. Three years later, and after multiple rounds of failed negotiations, the two sides have failed to make a deal. Most recently, after an eight month round of negotiations, the two sides reached an "impasse." Teachers within the school told WBOC they felt "under-appreciated," as they ask for higher salaries, and altered working conditions. 

Earlier in the year, the school district provided three administrative officials with a marginal increase in salary, something that triggered even greater complaints from teachers, who wanted a piece of the fiscal pie as well. However, the school board said that the pay raises were to compensate for past cuts, due to the district's previous economic problems. 

On Wednesday night, the school board renewed eight more contracts for administrative workers. Unlike the three officials from earlier in the school year, these officials did not see raises. 

"We have to make difficult decisions," said John Ewald, the superintendent for the school district.

Ewald took over in 2012, inheriting severe economic problems within the school system. He was the one who oversaw the controversial raises for the three administrative officials. He said the new amount matched what they were being paid before the economic troubles began for the schools. 

"The whole idea behind the salary increases for the three administrators earlier this year was to bring it back up to where it was before the financial recovery team cut it away," he said.

Many from the teachers' union were upset by the decision though, and leaders from the organization told WBOC they felt they deserve raises as well. One of those teachers was Susan Darnell. She is a teacher at Dunbar Elementary School, and is in charge of the Laurel Education Association, the union representing the teachers.

"It seems inappropriate to only provide for administrative salary increases without reserving some local funds to provide slight increases for the teachers as well," she said.

Darnell said the pay raises were not the fundamental request from the organization. She said some of the main sticking points related to points "revolving around working conditions, such as teaching time, preparation time, and meetings after school." Above all, Darnell said the issue was about getting what she said they deserve. 

"Teachers have been faithful to the Laurel School District during these lean times," she said. "But at some point (teachers) need to see that this dedication has been appreciated." 

She adds the district has good administrators but it's disappointing negotiations with the teacher contracts have stalled.

"I think the message just needs to be that we have to make it right for teachers as well and we need to find a mechanism to do that," she said.

Outside of The Dunbar Elementary School, parent Lisa Wright signs her daughter up for classes. She said she hopes the debates end soon, for the sake of the children. As of now, the teachers are working the absolute minimum as a bargaining tool, coming to the school five minutes before classes begin, and leaving just five minutes after it ends. 

"As a parent, it's really important to me that everything gets resolved," she said. "Because I want my daughter to be in good hands here at the school."

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