MARQUETTE - The Marquette school board honored several teachers during its regular board meeting Monday night, though many chose not to be there.
Instead, the Marquette Area Education Association, which represents teachers in the Marquette Area Public Schools district, hosted its own get-together at Harlow Park along Washington Street in Marquette at the same time as the board meeting.
The district's teacher of the year, teacher of the year finalists and retiring teachers were honored in absentia at the board meeting. They were also honored at the union's gathering.
Teachers in the Marquette school district gather in Harlow Park Monday evening to honor the district’s teacher of the year, teacher of the year finalists and retiring teachers. In a show of solidarity, the teachers decided to host their own celebration, rather than be recognized by the Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education during its regular meeting, held at the same time as the teachers’ celebration. The two parties have been unable to reach a final agreement in contract negotiations that have been ongoing the entire school year, as the teachers worked without a current contract. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
"The board meetings tend to be a little bit impersonal and generic," said MAEA co-president Don Barr. "The reality is that these teachers worked together longer than most of the board members have been on the board. These are the people that they care about, that they want to spend their last days with as MAPS teachers, so we thought this would be a nice way to get all the teachers together to honor our retirees in our own way."
Superintendent Bill Saunders said he was glad the teachers could come together to honor their colleagues.
"I think it's great," Saunders said. "Typically, when we get together here and recognize our retirees or even our teachers of the year, this isn't usually a packed board meeting. They're getting together, en masse, to show support and I think that's tremendous. There's no hard feelings on this end."
The two sides have been locked in a contract dispute for the entire school year, with the deadlock causing tensions to run high in recent months.
The dispute lies largely in offering steps - pay increases based on years of service - which the district wants to freeze.
The teachers are wholeheartedly against losing their steps, a contract provision they see as vital to financial stability in their careers.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.