Janesville teachers say 'yes' to the contract
Summary of changes
Click here for a Janesville School District summary of major changes in the tentative Janesville teachers contract.
JANESVILLE Their livelihoods were debated behind closed doors for 15 months.
At the same time, their worth—in dollars—was the focus of frequent public discussion.
Janesville public school teachers seemed to heave a collective sigh of relief Wednesday as they voted to ratify a new work contract.
“People know how it is when things are hanging over their head. It’s just a weight off your shoulders that you don’t have to worry about anymore,” said Van Buren School teacher James Caley.
The new contract’s final hurdle is the Janesville School Board, which votes on the contract next Tuesday. Most members at this Tuesday’s board meeting appeared to be ready to vote “yes,” as well.
Union President Dave Parr said he did not know the exact vote, other than that members ratified the contract.
The union’s executive board is holding onto the results until next Wednesday, when the percentages will be released to members and the news media, Parr said.
“I feel our members were very positive tonight. They realized this was the best contract we could get,” Parr said. “Of course, not everybody is going to be happy, but they’re very happy with the compromise.”
Many teachers interviewed Wednesday liked one contract provision that was a key demand of the school board: For the first time in years, the contract will be longer than two years.
Another two-year contract would have meant negotiations resuming as soon as this winter.
“It’s going to be a four-year contract, which means more years without having to battle between administrators and school board and teachers,” said Marshall Middle School teacher Dan Emerson. “It means more time being cooperative, and we can get down to the business of educating children and less time on politics.”
Madison School teacher Kathie Koebler said the contract has been on teachers’ minds and in their conversations for a long time.
“It’s just such a very good feeling for myself and all of the teachers to think that this contract discussion is going to be done, and done for more than just six to eight months,” Koebler said.
Elementary keyboarding teacher Cheryl Heth was one of several teachers who said the contract would help the whole district pull together to get the job done.
“I am looking forward to building this relationship with the district. I am looking forward to a good future,” Heth said.
Heth said the contract will help preserve a good education system, which is vital to helping Janesville rebound from hard economic times.
“This contract recognizes the excellent teachers we have in our community, and that makes it a win for the community and a win for the students and a win for the educators,” said Jackson School teacher Cecilia Hladky. “It retains the best teachers that we have. They’re not going to go someplace else.”
“Now we can talk about kids and how to teach them well and how to do the best job for Janesville and for our kids,” Koebler said. “ … I’m very hopeful.”