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A Message from Superintendent Joe Gothard About Thursday's SPFE Mediation Session

February 5, 2020

Colleagues:

Tomorrow we will be holding another mediation session with the Saint Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE), representing Teachers, Educational Assistants and School and Community Service Professionals. The District is prepared to make significant progress on the remaining proposals and I am grateful to members of both negotiating teams for their passion and professionalism.

I believe a contract settlement is imminent as we proceed through mediation, this is my commitment to our families and to all of you.

I understand the need for resources for student safety and support. That’s why our strategic plan, SPPS Achieves, is grounded in Positive School and District Culture and Social-Emotional Learning Support. In fact, SPPS Achieves currently contains more than $8.5 million that provides support to students, including 51 new full-time employees, approximately 40 of which are licensed staff members.

The Board of Education has authorized the District to spend $9.6 million on a new two-year contract with SPFE. This amount represents an increase of 1.5-percent in year one and 2-percent in year two for each respective bargaining group. That compares to an increase of $4.5 million, which SPFE received for all three of their bargaining units for their current contract when it was agreed to in 2018.

Keep in mind these mediation sessions come at a time when there are approximately 1,000 fewer students in SPPS this school year than last year. That translates to a loss of $6.3 million in State funding.

In addition, funding we receive from the state has not kept pace with inflation since 2003. Had that amount kept pace with inflation, SPPS would have more than $20 Million to spend each year, and I can assure you I would prioritize student safety and support with those funds.

However, the reality is we have limited resources, we need to prioritize and we need to work together to reach agreements that are best for our students.

Engaging with students, staff and members of the community the last few weeks, I ask for your continued support during what can seem like an adversarial process.

Individuals and groups have spoken about the support they feel is needed in SPPS, and it is difficult for me to begrudge the demands in the current proposals.

I am committed to building on our successes within SPPS, while helping us strengthen every inch of our organization. I believe we can reclaim our status as the best choice for new and returning families. Are there areas we need to improve for you to succeed in your jobs? The answer is yes and the best way to do that is to work on those solutions collaboratively.

I am hopeful tomorrow’s mediation will yield meaningful results and I’m grateful for the feedback I’ve gotten from staff members who join me in wanting a fair, responsible contract with our valued educators. I want you to know that I have been fully present and I am committed to a contract settlement.

In partnership,

Joe Gothard
Superintendent