Kalamazoo, MI- Prior to the start of the regularly scheduled Kalamazoo School Board, dozens of teachers, parents and community members were seen holding signs protesting outside the administration building. Standing room only, recognizing area students for their athletic achievements. The meeting’s priority for many in attendance, t step raises for teachers after one year of service. KEA, President, Amanda Miller states, “the other way teachers receive compensation increases are when we bargain an increase on the step schedule. The money budgeted doesn’t even get us to the step that teachers earn for last year’s service”.
A very emotionally charged meeting, parents and former KPS students shared their experiences of support from a KPS teacher that “took that extra time” or provide resources to them that they were not able to get on their own at the time. Teachers current and retired shared emotionally charged stories as well. Students that were able to move past a barrier or challenge in their lives and contributing part success to the dedication of KPS teachers.
George White, Lead parent advocate for SEE Change a local group from Kalamazoo, states, “It appears there was an agreement in principle to a 2.2 percent step increase for teachers this coming school semester. Recruiting and retaining quality teachers depends on stability/dependability of employment and step increases after their first year to assure that teachers feel valued and are able to support their families”.
White has met with many KPS parents and working with them to “navigate” through the “chain of commands”. In addition, White adds, “80 new teachers last year aided by a very high turnover ratio in Kalamazoo Public Schools. Kalamazoo Public Schools enrollment is thriving/growing over the last 10 years and students received an increase in per pupil funding this school year. It is no secret the school board has never met with teachers and this action serves to even deepen the rift. Our pupils deserve a school board that visits the schools and talks to the students/teachers and places the value where it belongs”.
The next KPS school board is scheduled for August 31, 2017, at 7 pm. The administration building is located 1220 Howard Street.