Public Comments Offer Fresh Perspectives at School Board Meeting

Many members of West Bloomfield Families Stand United approached the podium at the West Bloomfield meeting for the first time Monday to address their concerns about ongoing contract negotiations.

As Nancy Cooper approached the podium for the first time at a , she said she felt very self-conscious. She said that it made her “nervous” to discuss leaving the one commonality that she shared with a room packed full of her peers at the media center Monday night.

“My individual classrooms are well-supported. It’s the bigger community I see suffering,” she said, referring to negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement which have reached impasse since they began in August 2010. “I never thought I’d say that. I want to get that pride back.”

When the meeting adjourned, Cooper said that she felt like she “had a lot of support in the room” after speaking for the first time as an organizer of (WBFSU), who saw several other members speak for the first time, all wearing signature blue T-shirts to serve as a comparison with the ’s red T-shirts.

Different speakers offer different solutions

Some proposed different ways to get the contract ratified, such as Jeffery Kovacs, who said that he had a daughter working as a member of the West Bloomfield Education Association. “I’ve been negotiating union contracts since 1973, and I can tell everyone here from the (teacher’s union) to (WBFSU) that you don’t have the perspective you need if you haven’t been at the table. This board has been dealt an impossible hand,” he said.

Christy Forhan, a mother of three in the district, said that imposition of a contract offer may prove to be the best option for everyone involved. “Everyone deserves a sense of stability. Imposition gives us a starting point,” she said.

Others presented independent research on proposals made public made by the school district and the Michigan Education Association (MEA) during the negotiation process, research which Laura Mesner said that she had done for the first time after becoming involved with WBFSU. “The MEA is doing a disservice to its members and our kids with this contract … this health care package is, what I would call, a ‘Cadillac,’” said the mother.

The MEA, represented at a local level by the West Bloomfield Education Association (WBEA), was reported by Assistant Superintendent Rick Arnett to have not accepted the district’s contract proposal at the last mediation session March 8.  WBEA member and Green Elementary School teacher Angelene Welton spoke at the meeting on behalf of the union: “We try not to bring this to the workplace, but we’re human. The unsettling part is to the point where (imposition) would happen and would be retroactive. To go from receiving a check and to have that cut down … it would throw a lot of people for a loop.”

Board president David Einstandig did not reply to individual queries, as per custom, but did compliment everyone who spoke at the meeting, including parents and teachers.

“It’s about the courage to speak. It’s not just about T-shirts. Anyone who took the microphone to speak, you can tell it took a lot within to get up to that microphone and state how they feel. Whatever the issue is, I applaud that,” he said afterward.

A west Bloomfield Resident March 17, 2011 at 04:47 PM
Trevor, Thank you so much for the advice on quitting..I am looking into it as are over 150 of the staff in West Bloomfield. As a West Bloomfield teacher we are sure to be at the top of any district's list. So Trevor, you will have a new staff of young teachers with no experience teaching your children. That does not sound like a poor idea except they will be in the bottom rankings of pay compared to other districts in Oakland County. The pay would be slightly below Pontiac's and well below those better districts like Southfield, River Rouge and everyone else. But as you say Trevor you get what you pay for...
A west Bloomfield Resident March 17, 2011 at 04:55 PM
One more thing Trevor.....did you look at the link I provided above? Would it surprise you that administration added perks to cover part of the 10% cut? Would it surprise you to know the district gave away over $500,000 to 8 administrators? Would it surprise you that a person making 170,000 per year needs a second retirement account with $10,000 per year? Would it surprise you to know that the administration contract has more perks compared to neighboring districts? This might be a place for the public to look into and see if things are really as they seem.
Lisa March 19, 2011 at 03:25 AM
The current "ideas" that the district have put forth both include retroactive paycuts, one retroactive to December, the other to the start of the 2010-2011 school year. Regarding MESSA, they are a non-profit. The reserves that they have are put back into the insurance plans to offset health care costs for the next year. Their rate increases have averaged less than half of the industry average, less than 6%. The proposals offered by the WBEA include increased deductibles and high cost prescription coverage that significantly brings down the cost of healthcare premiums by as much as $300 per month per member. I believe that it is of the utmost importance to make sure that you are presenting documented facts when speaking in a public forum, especially when you are talking about people who stand to lose what the members of the WBEA are being asked to give up.
Christy Forhan March 21, 2011 at 12:48 PM
- Public Act 106 is one of the primary reasons school boards in Michigan can NOW consider alternatives to MESSA. PA106 requires a BOE to solicit at least 4 competitive bids for their employee groups (if the group has at least 100 members--which exempts all the support groups in WB, I assume). In addition, PA106 compels MESSA to release claims data and changed the way they pool their members. Prior to PA106, MESSA was not required to release claims data. That meant that even if a BOE wanted to bid out H/C insurance, they had no experience data to provide to the bidders. No self-respecting insurance company (and certainly no company we would want to do business with) could develop a bid w/out actual claims experience. The attached article does a great job of reviewing PA106. Read it all the way to the end. It's good info. NOTE: PA106 was passed in the fall of 2007. http://www.nctq.org/nctq/research/1201882686045.pdf - The article that summarizes PA106 http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(n5510za5va31n155z1wf4sav))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=2007-SB-0418 - The history of the actual bill
Theddychibe September 18, 2011 at 07:29 PM
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