ANSON – Travelers over the Madison-Anson Bridge each weekday may think that the protesters carrying signs in the early morning are from Madison Paper Industries, which is located next to the bridge.
But the men and women gathered there each morning before heading to classes are teachers from SAD 74, protesting their lack of a contract and stalled negotiation talks.
SAD 74 consists of Anson, North Anson, Solon, New Portland and Embden, and the union represents 72 teachers, according to chief negotiator Doug Larlee.
Larlee said Monday that teachers have been working without a contract since Sept. 1. Major sticking points are salaries and the Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage.
“SAD 74 has always had a great reputation and has been a wonderful place to work,” said Larlee. “Most of the teachers are long-term staff. Many of the SAD 74 teachers have dedicated their entire careers here. But we are totally frustrated.”
Superintendent Regina Campbell said negotiations were confidential and she could not comment. However, Campbell said progress is being made. “We are still talking,” she said.
Larlee said the starting salary for SAD 74 teachers is $20,000. “And the top of our master’s degree scale is still less than $40,000.”
“During the past, in economic bad times, the teachers took very little so we could keep our programs for our kids intact,” he said. “Now, times are better and we think it is time the district started making up for this.”
Larlee said teachers have received no recognition for forgoing raises in favor of school necessities. “Their last offer, under their proposed salary restructure, would actually give some teachers $2,500 less per year,” he said.
In addition, Larlee said that a teacher opting for family group medical insurance is now paying $400 a month for that benefit. He said teachers would like to see the district pay a larger portion of that cost.
Larlee said the district has held two mediation sessions, with little or no progress. “Our next step is going to be fact-finding,” he said.