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SPFE Mediation Update: March 6, 2020

March 6, 2020


I am writing to provide an update on today’s mediation between SPPS and the Saint Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) union.

We reached tentative agreements on two proposals today, and came to a mutual agreement to drop five proposals. So far, we have resolved more than half of all the proposals being considered. However, there was little additional progress made today. My focus remains reaching agreement on a new contract, so our students can be in school on Tuesday.

I want to appeal to you, and set the record straight regarding misinformation that is being shared within our organization and with our families. SPPS is filled with committed educators, incredible students and caring families. Our strategic plan focused on building on those strengths while improving long term student outcomes.

  • My team and I have been present, engaged and responsive during each of our negotiation and mediation sessions. I have been pushing for progress, asking for additional times to meet and avoiding any delays in this important process.


  • Students should not be placed in the middle of this situation. In the event of a strike, SPPS plans to open Kid Space sites that will offer our K-5 students safe, warm locations for students to spend time, with enjoyable activities and adult supervision. Additionally, we will serve meals to young people ages 18 and under at various locations across the city. Our families should be encouraged to utilize these services, if needed. Telling families to stay away from these sites if there is a strike is doing great disservice to our students and families.


  • During negotiation and mediation meetings with SPFE, I have proposed specific steps to add student support for mental health. I have also proposed ways to get funding to pay for that additional support. While there is not a guaranteed amount of staffing, there is a commitment to allocate funds generated collaboratively to increase support for students who need it most.


  • I have not and will not engage in personal attacks. My focus is on our students, their education and doing our best to prepare them for college, career and life. After mediation is over, we have to all come together and work for our students and their families.

If negotiating a contract was easy, it would be done. We would have a settlement and we would be moving onto a few great weeks in SPPS before a much deserved spring break. There is no denying the distance between the demands at the table by SPFE and the strategic priorities guiding the decisions by the SPPS team. I don’t believe a strike will bring us closer in negotiations and in our working relationship. I urge SPFE to reconsider their decision to strike on March 10.   

I remain optimistic that the next three days of mediation will produce a contract settlement.

In partnership,

Joe Gothard