A group of teachers attended the
meeting wearing black as a form of
unity and protest. Photo by Lydon Pelletier '19
For a few months now, teacher contracts have been a widely-discussed issue within the LM community and at multiple LMSD School Board meetings. On October 23, over eighty teachers attended the school board meeting, making up the majority of the audience. Many of them were wearing T-shirts that demonstrated support for Lower Merion Education Association (LMEA). Teacher and staff contracts have been in a “status quo” holding pattern since they expired on June 30 because negotiations between the LMEA and the School Board have not progressed.
At the Board meeting, several people spoke in support of teachers and staff. Harriton student Max Beck ’18 delivered a speech about the importance of teachers to the community, stating that “it is not the laptop computers or the new building to me that make LMSD schools great it’s the teachers.” Beck continued by saying that his teachers “provided [him] with an amazing platform of support, encouragement, and knowledge,” and said, “teachers want a fair contract, and I, as a student, want them to have this fair contract so that they can direct all efforts to educating and changing lives.” When Beck finished speaking, many teachers stood up and applauded.
The School Board claimed that it considers negotiations with the LMEA a top priority and is trying to establish a fair contract. Dr. Robin Vann Lynch, President of the School Board, wanted the community to be aware that they support all the teachers and staff working in our school district. Vann Lynch says they show this support through “fair compensation,” and reminded attendees of the meeting that “on average, we currently have the highest salaries in our state—no district in our area comes close to matching the top salaries of our teachers.” She also stated that “all LMEA members receive excellent health and retirement benefits.”
The Board confirmed their intent to form a multi-year contract that would include salary increases and bonus payments while reminding teachers of the benefits of the current contract that covers LMEA members in the interim. The Board asked for patience with the existing structure while both parties evaluate proposals and identify terms that will be agreeable. In addition, they are working with a mediator to create a plan with which both the Board and the LMEA are satisfied. Vann Lynch also recognized the value of hardworking teachers and that their goal is to maintain the reputation of LMSD as a top, competitive school district where people want to send their children.
The LMEA Twitter page posted their view of the meeting, saying they “look forward to productive and collegial negotiating sessions in November and putting these talks behind us,” while also
promoting their petition for fair contracts.
This meeting did not officially change anything. Therefore, the LM community will have to wait for the results of the upcoming meetings between the Board and the LMEA in order to find out the future of the contracts for the teachers and staff.