MARQUETTE - With the crying of babies and the occasional outburst of children at play in the background, Marquette Area Public Schools teachers made an impassioned plea to the MAPS Board of Education Monday night.
"As we hear all the time, we are the greatest staff in the greatest district in the U.P.," said 17-year teaching veteran Holly Warchock. "We've been nothing for the last three contracts."
The Marquette Area Education Association has been in talks with the district since August to formulate a new contract.
Bothwell Middle School sixth-grade teacher Jamie Davis holds her 5-week-old son as she explains the high cost of health insurance to the Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education Monday night. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
The teachers said the proposal calls for no base salary increase and requires teachers to pay unaffordable health insurance rates.
Many of the teachers brought their families along, mostly of young children. The crowd sat through the full meeting to speak during a second public comment portion.
The teachers told the board after receiving the district's latest contract proposal they felt undervalued, confused and fearful that they may need to choose a different profession to keep their families financially sustainable.
Each teacher received a round of applause from the crowd after speaking.
"I knew I would never become rich by teaching, but what I didn't know is I wouldn't be able to live off of teaching. My heart is now being pulled between the two things I love the most - my kids at home and my kids at school," said kindergarten teacher Terri Tammelin. "The truth is I cannot afford to be a teacher much longer."
Jaime Davis, a sixth-grade teacher at Bothwell currently on maternity leave, stood at the podium, holding her newborn son in one arm and her young daughter in the other, and explained the high personal cost of the district's hard-cap health insurance.
Davis said with the cost of the birth of her son and the stitches her daughter required for a cut on her forehead, she had already met her cap.
"With these two things, I'm done. My cap is done. I can't take my babies to their well-baby appointments anymore unless it comes out of my pocket, or go to my own appointments or anything else," Davis said. "I feel like what's being proposed is putting people in my stage of life in a position where we're going, well, can we have a kid? Can we have a family, or do I need to quit being a teacher and get a different job so I can have a family?"
Stu Skauge, UniServe director for the Michigan Education Association in Marquette and Alger counties, spoke on behalf of the teachers as well.
Skauge said it was first time he could remember, in the past three decades, that retiring teachers did not find their three highest paying years in their last three years of work. Some had to go back four or five years, Skauge said.
"There's no reason not to offer these people a living wage," Skauge said. "It's just not right. You can do better than this. Please do."
Board Vice President Scott Brogan and Interim Superintendent Bill Saunders declined to comment.
Board President Rich Rossway, Secretary/Treasurer Mike Kohler and Trustee Jean Hetrick did not attend the meeting.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.