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Teachers picket at school board meeting

Student rep: Ongoing dispute is affecting grades

Posted: December 18, 2013 - 1:03am
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Juneau School District teachers protest outside of Juneau-Douglas High School before Tuesday's evening school board meeting. About 70 Juneau Education Association members were there.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Juneau School District teachers protest outside of Juneau-Douglas High School before Tuesday's evening school board meeting. About 70 Juneau Education Association members were there.

About 70 teachers and their supporters picketed outside Juneau-Douglas High School for 45 minutes leading up to the Juneau School Board meeting Tuesday night.

The protest is a response by teachers who have claimed the Juneau School District has not bargained in good faith during the collective bargaining negotiations which have been underway for almost a year now.

“We just want to be recognized as teachers who’ve earned this raise we’re asking for,” said Bobby Jones, a math and science teacher at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School. “Our whole community has been touched by this community of teachers, because teachers teach their kids every day and spur them to success.”

He added that the group hoped to put faces to the ongoing dispute with the district over a new contract.

“Our hope is they see faces and think, ‘That’s Mr. Jones, and so-and-so, who’s really affected by this,’” Jones said.

The protest spilled over into the public comment section of the regular board meeting with several teachers telling board members they — along with many of their colleagues who did not comment Tuesday night — felt unappreciated by the district.

“The district needs to find better ways to reward and retain quality teachers that call Juneau their home,” said James White, a teacher at DHMS. “My pride for this district is no longer enough to keep me in a job that is no longer valued by (the district).”

Another teacher said the ongoing dispute has created a “climate of despair.”

“None of the teachers I’ve talked to can get everything done in a contract day,” said Ben Carney, a JDHS teacher. “They donate their time, and they don’t mind doing what they do so long as they feel supported — and they don’t feel supported.”

He added that news of Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich’s pending application for the superintendent position in Kalispell, Mont., means Gelbrich “has no reason to settle with teachers in a fair and respectful manner.”

Ruby Steedle, the student representative on the board, said students believe the ongoing dispute is adversely affecting grades, and she recommended settling with the teachers.

“We don’t feel our students are getting the support we need to excel,” Steedle told the board during her student report section. “Students are failing classes because teachers are leaving right at 4 (p.m.) at the end of their contract day.

“If they’re not there, we’re not succeeding in class,” she added.

The board went on to hear a pair of policy change proposals.

The first would alter policies pertaining to student nutrition and remove the free and reduced rate milk program. The second addresses a policy on the transportation of students who are handicapped.

It was also mentioned that Thunder Mountain High School’s bandwidth issues that were causing problems for students and faculty have been resolved.

Initial estimates projected a large expense to fix the problem, but Alaska Communications decided to extend a fiber cable to the area as an investment for the company, district Chief-of-Staff Kristin Bartlett said.

The result is an uptick in the district’s monthly usage costs proportional to the increase in data being used — the best-case scenario, Director of Administrative Services David Means said.

• Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at 523-2243 or at matthew.woolbright@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter @reportermatt.

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