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Latest News - November 2014

November 17, 2014
Galesburg-Augusta teachers to picket tonight to protest lack of contract
Julie Mack

GALESBURG, MI -- Teachers in Galesburg-Augusta Community Schools plan to picket before tonight's school board meeting to protest the fact that they have been without a contact since July 2012.

The protest is planned for 5:45 to 6:15 p.m. in front of Galesburg-Augusta Primary School, said Eric Curtiss, president of the Galesburg-Augusta Education Association, which represents the district's 70 teachers. The protesters then plan to attend the school board meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17, at the high school.

The protest "isn't a vindictive thing," Curtiss said. "But we're in our third year (without a contract) and I don't know that the community is aware of that fact.

"We're dealing with the same problems that every other district around here is facing, and they all have a contract except for Portage," Curtiss said. "Why the disconnect?"

Curtiss points out the teachers approved a tentative agreement in May, only to see it voted down in May by the G-A school board -- a highly unusual move.

"The financials were not in the best interests of the school district,” board President Richard Fletcher said at the time.

The union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board over the board's vote in May to reject the agreement. A hearing on that complaint will be held in early December, Curtiss said. 

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Nov. 21, he added.

One factor slowing down negotiations has been turnover in the district's leadership.

The district is on its third superintendent in three years. Tim Vagts resigned in spring 2013; Al Lentz served as interim superintendent for 2013-14, and the district's new superintendent, Dania Bazzi, started July 1.

Bazzi previously was director of teaching and learning for Hamilton Community Schools.

There also has been considerable turnover at the board level.

Five of the seven members have been on the board for less than two years and the board's most veteran member -- President Richard Fletcher -- did not seek re-election this November.

His departure will leave a vacancy on the board since there weren't enough candidates on the ballot. The vacancy will be filled by appointment. 

Fletcher declined comment about Monday's protest. "I have a lot of say, but I won't comment," he said Saturday. "I don't want to muddy the waters."



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