Birmingham Schools, teachers near tentative agreement
The Birmingham school board accepted a proposal from the Birmingham Education Association following months of bargaining but stopped short of calling it a tentative agreement because more details need to be worked out, it said.
The announcement came during a protest at 6:15 p.m. at the Birmingham Schools Administration Building, where about 200 union members from school districts including Warren Consolidated Schools, Bloomfield Hills, Berkley, Northville, Utica and Troy joined parents, students and other community members to call for a contract.
They marched at the building on Evergreen in Beverly Hills chanting, “We need a contract, we need a contract.” A Chihuahua wore a sign that read: “I love BEA.”
Negotiators have been working since April but had failed to reach an agreement to replace a contract that expired June 30. Teachers were looking for raises for added duties and extra staff days.
Under the previous contract, pay ranged from $41,043 a year for a beginning instructor to $88,482 for those with a master’s degree and 30 years’ experience.
As the teachers marched along Evergreen, where the board meeting was to convene, dozens of cars drove by honking horns in support.
Protesters carried signs reading “Students are our top priority,” “Negotiations Now” and “You can’t put students first when you put teachers last.”
A half-hour into the protest, BEA president Scott Warrow stood on top of a brick border wall with a bullhorn.
“People sometimes question the value of unions,” he started. “Late last night we worked hard to propose a settlement and I would like to announce that the board has accepted our proposal.”
The 200 protesters erupted into cheers and applause.
“I know about 35 of you had planned to address the board during the meeting tonight, but I would suggest that it’s not necessary now,” said Warrow.
Maureen Martin, who teaches special education at Quarton Elementary School, was among those cheering.
“I think it’s sad that we had to get this kind of action (the protest) when we’ve been bargaining in good faith for almost a year,” she said. “But it’s not over until we get a fair settlement for the paraprofessionals and secretaries who work just as hard as we do.”
Warrow called the proposal a “conceptual agreement on economic conditions of the contract.”
“We have to finish some minor details and then we’ll get those details of the contract, bring it to the members who will vote democratically on it ...,” Warrow said.
Warrow said the contract should be ratified by Oct. 20.
During the board meeting, Superintendent Daniel Nerad said the contracts for the paraprofessionals and secretaries still are in negotiation.
“It is my greatest wish to be able to report all three contracts have been agreed upon, and I hope to announce that soon,” he said. “We are intent on bringing those to resolution as soon as possible. The board gave me the direction to accept the conceptual agreement.”
Board president Robert Lawrence said he was happy with the agreement.