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Teachers pack school board meeting amid ongoing union negotiations

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS Miller Middle School teacher Brett Comegys makes a case for permissive collective bargaining items to be negotiated instead of put into a district handbook.

Since formal negotiations began a month ago, the Marshalltown Education Association teachers’ union and Marshalltown Schools administrators have not come to terms about what the union can negotiate.

District officials have said several permissible items like seniority, salary schedules, grievance procedures and more should be put into the district handbook, not in a union contract. Union members want those permissible items to be negotiated and put into a union contract.

“When you take that security away, effectiveness will follow,” said Woodbury Elementary Title I teacher Jasmine Hazen.

She said her 13 years as a Marshalltown student and 11 years as a teacher have built up her faith in the district and its leadership. However, she said the proposal that the permissible items be placed on a non-negotiated handbook has started to change her feelings.

“When I hear about what is happening with our contract, my faith is beginning to waver,” Hazen said.

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS Dozens of teachers from across Marshalltown Schools turn out to Monday’s school board meeting, many of whom shared their concerns about the collective bargaining process so far this year.

Other teachers who spoke at Monday’s meeting agreed with Hazen.

“Moving our language into a handbook terrifies us,” said Lenihan Intermediate School teacher Alex Klyn, who spoke at the May 6 meeting on the same subject.

Another difference between the two parties is the union wants a multi-year contract while the district wants a one-year contract. Klyn said he is a strong supporter of the multi-year idea.

Woodbury teacher Becky Jacobson said she is a proud product of Marshalltown Schools and is a full supporter of the Marshalltown Strong movement that came out of the community-wide July 19 tornado recovery process.

“Changing the contract does not make me feel Marshalltown Strong,” she said.

Teachers Brett Comegys, Marlene Current and Holly Carter were also among those who shared their displeasure with the district’s proposal to not include permissive items in the union contract.

This is the first time formal union negotiations have taken place between the MEA and the district since the Republican-controlled legislature made sweeping changes to Iowa Code Chapter 20, which deals with collective bargaining for public employee unions.

The only item which must be negotiated in non-public safety collective bargaining is base salary, according to the law. All other items are either permissible or illegal to discuss.

The union and district kicked off this year’s negotiations in late April. While there were several concerns aired at Monday’s meeting during public forum, the school board did not take any action regarding the collective bargaining negotiations that evening.

“Having productive teachers is ultimately going to make our district a productive place,” Klyn said. “How can we put students first if you’re putting the teachers last?”

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Contact Adam Sodders at

641-753-6611 or

asodders@timesrepublican.com