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Bergerson speaks on teacher's grievance

Two grievances were brought to the attention of the Pine River-Backus School Board at the board’s Aug. 19 regular meeting requesting equal treatment regarding teachers’ pay.

The issue arose in reaction to a May 20 school board decision to hire elementary teacher Julie Soukup on step 9 of the school salary schedule.

At the time, only board members Chris Cunningham and Katy Botz opposed the decision. Cunningham and Botz explained that they did not oppose the rehiring of Soukup, but questioned hiring her at step 9 while most teachers are hired at step 5 or 6.

At the time Superintendent Cathy Bettino said Soukup was a PR-B elementary teacher previously and was paid at the step nine salary schedule at that time. She said Soukup had proven herself a valuable asset during her previous employment.

This was precisely the subject of the grievances raised by Nancy Aimers and the Pine River-Backus Education Association (PRBEA) (Education Minnesota).

PRBEA representative Steve Bergerson said the grievances were not in opposition to the board’s decision to raise Soukup to step 9.

“As an association we’re glad she got that, and we would hope all teachers would get that. But that’s not the way it’s been played here,” Bergerson said.

Bergerson said the PRBEA contract with the school district says hired teachers will be placed on the school pay schedule for up to five years of their teaching experience. He said teachers for the past 25 years have only been hired up to step six of the pay schedule.

“They only got the five years’ experience, so they would start on step six. Now the district has brought in another teacher on step nine. One of the questions we have had from our staff was, ‘I have 10 years’ experience, when I was hired I was only given five, can I get bumped up five more?’” Bergerson said. “What we were looking for was one of two things. Either continue to follow the practice we’ve been following for 25 years, or if you’re going to be doing this, let’s give it to the other teachers that it would have applied to when they were hired. That’s really what the grievance was all about. Mostly about being fair and equitable to everybody across the board.”

The board denied the grievances, with Cunningham voting to support Aimers’ grievance.