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Teachers express grievance over contract negotiations

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

While the Lebanon Community School District began its board meeting on Oct. 12, teachers could be heard through the walls from outside yelling, “Contract now!” and “Respect!”
From a crowded room, five teachers, staff and parents approached the board during the public comment period to express their grievances.
“We are a unified bunch who is here for the children of Lebanon,” said kindergarten teacher Sarah Haley, who’s been teaching for 27 years.
Haley said she recalled a contract negotiation some time during that period where they went six or seven years without a cost of living wage increase. This year, she noted, she is being paid $126 per month less than last year.
“That does not feel respectful to me,” she said. “I work hard. I give my all to my students and to my school. It is time to settle this contract. We have had enough. It is time to dig deep. It is time to listen to your teachers who say ‘we don’t need to pay for things like Parent Square and other things that teachers don’t even like to use because they are cumbersome,’ and to listen to what teachers need instead of buying all the extra stuff that we do not need to help students learn.”
Language arts teacher Haley Vernon expressed concerns about class sizes and student behaviors.
“Many of our students express unacceptable classroom behaviors; throwing garbage, physical violence, destruction of class materials and resources, name-calling, screaming, emotional irregulation and threatening,” she said. “Student outbursts are frequent, sometimes volatile, and disrupt the learning environment for other students in the classroom, and it creates an impact on me to be able to do my job that I was hired to do.”
Counselor Kelli Conrads told the board their requests are not for selfish reasons but, rather, to be able to do what they need to do to help their students.
“We can’t do that when we’re worried about how we’re going to feed our family, how we’re going to take care of their medical (needs),” she said.
Conrads said she has witnessed class sizes that are too large to manage, one of which was so full that “the students couldn’t even fit in the classroom.” Chromebooks are not available, there are not enough desks or textbooks, and yet students are expected to complete their work, she said.
Social studies teacher David Meeks shared the hard decision he had to make to drop his dental benefits, and parent Amanda Primasing said, “These kids are our future. These teachers standing in front of you, begging to be heard and seen and financially supported are the future of our children. They deserve better, and they deserve more.”
In a press statement the following day, LCSD announced that after nearly nine months of contract negotiations with the Lebanon Education Association (LEA), the union representing the district’s licensed educators, they are requesting the help of a state mediator.
LCSD is offering a 9.25% cost of living increase over two years, the same salary increase that their classified staff received. Licensed staff in LCSD are not working without a contract but rather working under their previous contract. Their pay remains consistent with the current salary schedule, which means that those eligible to receive a step increase this year already have.
Like many Oregon districts, LCSD is contending with a decrease in enrollment along with revenue that is inadequate to cover the heightened costs of operations and services. Amidst the fiscal strain, LCSD continues to direct the majority of its resources toward classrooms.
For more information and updates during this process, visit lebanon.k12.or.us/about-us/district-union-negotiations.