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Superintendent Listening Post

“We are worth more”

A symbolic message by our teachers

It has been in local news recently concerning Rochester Public Schools that teachers are walking out of schools together because of their contracts. To some, this may be concerning to think that their children aren’t properly being cared for; however, this is far from the truth.

These teachers are all part of a labor union known as the Rochester Education Association, and these walkouts are actually a group effort by teachers in Rochester Public Schools to show their stance on their current contract negotiations. Every two years, the Rochester Education Association meets to discuss their contracts with the current superintendent, Dr. Kent Pekel. 

Last week, Mr. Huesman, a member of the union, stated that “current negotiations are still ongoing,” and “the idea behind it is that we continue negotiating and working with the district team” until “we come up with an agreed-upon contract,” or “we will have to go to what they call mediation.” Although the union has been unsatisfied with contract proposals, they have been slowly moving towards a compromise after lengthy negotiations with the superintendent. Now, Mr. Vince Wagner, the president of the Rochester Education Association has announced that the union’s negotiations team, “has reached a tentative agreement with RPS on a new master contract for 2023-2025!”

A main point often stated by members of the Rochester Education Association was that teachers need a higher salary that is adjusted for inflation as well as a cost-of-living increase. Other benefits the union has been seeking include a cap on class sizes in elementary school and improved insurance benefits. All three of these areas have been addressed through the tentative agreement. Details will be available at a later date.

The teachers in Rochester Public Schools dedicate a good amount of their time each day to students, not only during class time, but outside of class as well. Many students can relate a personal experience when they have benefitted from Mayo staff and teachers’ help or guidance beyond regular instruction. Our teachers are not required to continue working after 3:35, but they continue to do so in order to help students with their education. Mr. Lang explained that teachers “are contracted by our district to work until 3:35, so we’re meeting at that time and showing a statement that we’re leaving.” He went on to state that “teachers work a lot more hours than what our district would call contracted time,” not to mention the several clubs inside of RPS that have a teacher volunteer to oversee the clubs activities. 

On an initial inspection, it might appear that teachers are striking by leaving classes; however, the walkout is a symbolic gesture. Mr. Johnson explains that “No teachers are out here abandoning their job.” Instead, “we are simply trying to show the public how much time and effort we put into our schools.” The main goal of this movement is for the teachers to show that they are all supporting each other in this endeavor as well as to show our superintendent that they are not satisfied with their current contracts. Mr. Lang explains that the walkout is “saying we support each other as we negotiate with the district,” and “we want, as a group, the best and most fair contract we can possibly get.”

These walkouts happen every Wednesday at 3:35 p.m. The teachers will wear red each Wednesday to show their support. This will continue until an agreement is finalized.


Photo courtesy of Mr. Huesman

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