- Last Updated on Monday, 29 January 2018 23:59
By J.R. Brower
At their January 17 meeting, the Ringgold Board of School Directors approved a new 5-year contract for teachers who recently settled a contentious strike that had lasted for almost a month. Through their union, Ringgold teachers struck on October 13 last year and did not settle with the board until December 20.
The main issue of the strike was salary-related. In negotiations, the teachers claimed through their union that they were the lowest-paid in the region. Representative Maria Degnanof the Ringgold Education Association said that settlement of the strike resulted in an overall 3.9 percent increase in teachers’ wages per year.
Included in the new contract is a pact that will allow newer teachers to increase their salaries faster. Also, they will be retroactively paid an average of about $58,000 in the first year of the contract based upon when they were hired. At the end of the 4-year contract, teachers’ salaries will average over $60,000 per year.
Of the 15 members of the school board, the only director to vote against the new contract was Maureen Ott. Predicting that the salary increases could easily lead to staff layoffs or program cuts, she said, “Ringgold teachers are getting close to 4% in raises when most working people now are only averaging 2% salary increases per year.”
A school board director who supported approval of the new contract, Bill Stein Jr., joined the consensus of the majority of the board concluding that the agreement was good for the future of Ringgold schools. “Now,” he said “it’s something we need to put behind us.”
There were no more than 20 attendees at the school board meeting including teachers, parents and students. The teachers were relatively quiet throughout the meeting and listened to both parents and one student who addressed their concerns to the board.
Parent Roger Wilson of Monongahela expressed his dismay that Martin Luther King Day was not even recognized in school, and no activities were planned or carried out at the high school, middle school or elementary schools in the district. Wilson also complained about internet bullying among students which he feels the school district is doing little to curtail.
Most of the discussion at the January 17 Ringgold School Board centered around controversy over a request of eight high school students to form an extracurricular club to study current events, government and history. The students proposed the club request to the administration and board in September, but in recent months, one school director, Larry Mauro, has voiced opposition to the American Civic Club, calling it subversive.
“I’m wary of clubs not initiated by teachers, and we don’t have a policy that governs this,” said Mauro. He went on as far as to say that he researched the origin of the club name and traced it back to several southern hate groups of “neo-confederates” with radical agendas called IOTC and the League of the South.
Stein had countered Mauro, saying his research of the club was ill-founded based upon semantics. “The district thoroughly investigated the club request and determined its members want to learn about government and community service,” said Stein.
Student David Reidenbaugh of Eighty Four, representing the eight members attending the meeting, said the club wants to do good work and learn about community service. “We are just students who are interested in attending school board meetings and getting involved in local government. In no way is this a racist organization,” he said.
Formal recognition of the Ringgold American Civic Club as well as the Ringgold Chess Club received final school board approval by a vote of 5-4.