Teachers Picket

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

Call it the storm before the calm: St. Johns teachers picketing as leaders on both sides say they could be just hours away from having a contract.

"What we're trying to do is just inform people of what's going on," said Connie Ciangi, a spokeswoman for the St. Johns Education Association barganing team.

The group Ciangi and others are trying to "inform" includes the public and the school board -- teachers sent in the state teachers union economist to try and convince the St. Johns board they can afford to settle.

"I think they have more money than they thought they did a month ago," Michigan Education Association Staff Economist Ruth Beier said.

Beier says it's more than enough to cover the teachers proposed settlement, including raises of one percent and then one and a half percent the year after. District administrators have said the district's financial condition doesn't allow for the raises.

Before he had a chance to hear all the details, the board president told us he'll at least listen.

"Anything's possible," Bill Tennant said. "I don't count anything out. It's always good to have another perspective looking at that."

The picketing teachers are part-way through their second year without a contract. Ciangi, the union negotiating team spokeswoman, says they won't be taking their protests -- or their t-shirts -- into the classroom.

"We learned from [the] Leslie [School District]'s mistakes," she explained.

That's not to say some teachers aren't angry and frustrated over working without a contract.

"It is definitely on the minds of our membership," Ciangi said.

There is something that may put that their minds at ease: leaders on both side of the negotiation say a contract is near.

"I feel we're getting very very close and it could be a done deal," Tennant said. Ciangi called Monday's presentation "a big step in the right direction."

A big step, that is, toward arriving at a contract at Tuesday afternoon's bargaining session.


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