The Burnsville Education Association teacher’s union began contract negotiations with Burnsville-Eagan-Savage district last month.

Teachers will continue with their contract that began July 1, 2017 and ended June 30, 2019 until the next one is settled, association President Wendy Drugge said.

Board of Education members Darcy Schatz, Eric Miller and newcomer Jen Holweger represent the district during negotiations alongside Director of Human Resources Stacey Sovine and Business Director Lisa Rider.

Holweger earned the union’s endorsement in the last election.

The association’s negotiations team is led again by M.W. Savage Elementary teacher Sara Strahota. She’s joined by Melissa Blandin of Burnsville High School, Dan King of Gideon Pond Elementary School, Mike Blair of Eagle Ridge Middle School and Patrick Chesla of M. W. Savage Elementary School.

Not all school districts begin the year without an updated contract, Drugge said, but that’s how odd years have begun in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage for as long as she can remember.

The first meeting took place between the district and union representatives on Sept. 11. Upcoming negotiation sessions are scheduled for Oct. 9 and 14.

“The members of the BEA are focused on their students and getting the school year off to a strong start,” Drugge wrote in a email.

District spokesman Aaron Tinklenberg in an email said the district’s committed to following its values as well, including valuing diversity, serving the unique needs of staff and families, and valuing staff members’ professionalism.

Last year’s contract battle

Negotiations spanned 14 months, including 16 regular negotiation sessions and five mediation sessions, before the most recent contract was settled in Aug. 2018.

During the negotiations, teachers rallied public support through picket lines and worked a strict 8-hour day, known as “work to rule,” and would sometimes enter and exit schools in a unified group.

The dispute dragged on over the process for teacher layoffs. The district’s proposal to lay off teachers with disciplinary actions in their files before looking to seniority was ultimately struck down; the seniority-based system, favored by union negotiators, remained intact.

Former board member Bob VandenBoom voted against the contract last August and criticized the seniority-based layoff procedure, which he said is one of the guarantees given to teachers in the contract “regardless of performance or behaviors” and leaves the administration without “mechanisms to approve accountability or retain our best teachers.”

Former chairman Jim Schmid personally apologized for the anxiety and mistrust the prolonged negotiations caused in the community before voting to approve the contract.


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