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Teachers relieved after state ruling in SMSD contract dispute

Posted at 10:34 PM, Feb 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-15 08:47:59-05

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — After the Kansas Department of Labor’s decision Friday to void portions of a three-year contract for Shawnee Mission School District teachers, those teachers felt relief and hope that a better deal could be reached.

The state ruled that the district cannot unilaterally impose a the three-year contract on the NEA Shawnee Mission Teachers Union. It must be done on a year-to-year basis.

After the decision came down, teachers were pleased with the development.

One Shawnee Mission teacher, former Indian Woods Middle School teacher Amanda Coffman, resigned Monday during an SMSD Board of Education meeting.

“I said teaching is like a bad marriage, because you’re not getting your needs met but you stay in it for the kids,” Coffman said. “I can’t tell you the number of people who said they wish they could afford to do what I did.”

Video of Coffman’s resignation speech has been viewed nearly a million times on YouTube. She said she has received messages of support from around the world.

After learning of the Labor Department's decision on Friday, Coffman said she stood by her decision to resign.

“I have absolutely no regret, because I left a district that would impose upon me a three-year contract and a board who voted to do so,” she said. “The same people who would seek to do something that was found to be illegal are still in charge. I’m very hopeful the negotiating team is able to be more successful for next year and things improve for teachers in Shawnee Mission, but I’m not willing to wait any longer for that to happen.”

For others, the deadline to sign the district’s three-year-contract by Friday brought plenty of emotion.

“I stared at it for a good hour (on Friday) and I was very angry,” Shawnee Mission Northwest High School teacher Rebecca Schultz said through tears. “I had to sign it. I’m an only-parent.”

With the state ruling voiding the final two years of the contract, Schultz said she felt relieved.

“I couldn’t believe it when I first saw it,” she said. “Now we can get back to the bargaining board and hopefully we can bargain for what’s fair.”

Much of the contract debate revolves around almost $10 million in extra funding SMSD received as a result of the revised Kansas school funding formula.

For the last several months, teachers have argued that they should see bigger growths in salaries as they continue to deal with larger class sizes and an extra hour of teaching.

Despite SMSD teachers making some of the highest average salaries in Kansas, the union said the district could do more to help its teachers.

The district counters, and a state fact-finder agreed, that it couldn’t afford the salary growth teachers want.

Both NEA Shawnee Mission and SMSD released statements Friday, indicating a willingness to return to the negotiating table in hopes a deal could be reached.

Schultz hopes a solution can be found soon.

“I hope they (the school board) hear us,” she said. “I hope they negotiate with us, and I hope we all come out with something more positive.”