Superintendent Message about Upcoming SPFE Strike Vote
Dear SPPS Colleagues,
I am writing to acknowledge the uncertainty that the possibility of a strike by the Saint Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) is causing; and to assure you I and the District negotiating team are committed to reaching a fair and responsible contract settlement with SPFE.
Our colleagues in SPFE have a very important vote this coming week. We encourage all SPFE members, Teachers, Educational Assistants and School and Community Service Professionals, to educate themselves on the proposals being discussed in mediation and participate by casting their vote. You can read about the proposals at www.spps.org/negotiations.
I realize this vote may have impacts on our students, families, staff and community.
If a strike occurs:
- All SPPS classes will be cancelled
- Any lost school days may need to be made up in order to meet graduation requirements, which means classes may go later into June
- Depending on the length of the strike, graduation dates may be impacted
- Depending on the length of the strike, Summer Learning Programs may need to be modified or cancelled
- The testing window for MCA science, reading and math tests would be shortened
- The make-up date for the ACT test may be cancelled
The District is putting plans in place to minimize these impacts as much as possible. However, if an SPFE member chooses to engage in a strike at any time, they cannot change their mind and return to work until a settlement is reached.
During a time of uncertainty, I want to remind our staff and emphasize that there are so many great things happening throughout our District.
We are working to create and enhance a positive school and District culture. We have programming that prepares students for college, career and life. Our middle schools are seeing growth due to our focus on a new middle school model. We have a strategic plan, SPPS Achieves, that provides a roadmap to address long-term student achievement.
Our future, and those of our students, are bright. That is why we have been negotiating in good faith with SPFE since May; and it’s why we remain committed to the mediation process and reaching a contract settlement.
I’ve provided factual updates that have avoided language intended to incite people. Instead, I believe facts and some consistent truths should guide these efforts:
- The Board of Education has authorized a total of $9.6 million in increased spending for a new two-year contract with SPFE. That amounts to increases of 1.5-percent in the first year and 2-percent in the second year.
- Those percentages are also the same as have been authorized for all our other collective bargaining units, and several of those units have agreed to new contracts with that amount.
- The District has lost more than 1,000 students in the last year, and that means a decrease of several million dollars in funds annually.
I have consistently stated that our students need additional support. Along with many of you, I have had a visible presence with our state lawmakers both in and out of the legislative session. I also believe we need to prioritize where and how additional resources should be used. Equal staffing maintained by guaranteed ratios is not a fiscal reality.
I am committed to seeking solutions that allow us to prioritize what additional resources, including staffing, are needed. Through a collaborative process with our educators, we can build thoughtful systems of student support and advocate together.
SPPS will remain committed to our students and families, so we have plans to offer several sites for safe-space programming for students in grades K through 5. Each one of those sites will serve breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack
While I don’t like to think about these possibilities, it’s my responsibility to plan for these possibilities. Our students, families, coworkers and community expect all of us to work together and avoid a strike.
I know some people think I’ve been overly optimistic when describing the progress we’ve made in these discussions so far. The truth is, I am optimistic and remain committed to reaching an agreement before a strike happens. I am confident that progress can be made during mediation to avoid disrupting all the great things happening in our schools.
I will continue to be truthful and timely when providing information about contract negotiations. I will also continue to place the needs of our students and live up to the overall responsibility I have to all stakeholders who support Saint Paul Public Schools.
Joe Gothard, Superintendent