Members of the East Moline Education Association came out in force for Wednesday night's school board meeting.
Wearing red shirts that read "EMEA Unity," an estimated 100 people representing every grade from every district school was present as the district and the union continue talks. Negotiating since March, teachers are in their 66th day without a contract, the longest time members said they could remember.
"I've been in education for 34 years, and we've always had a contract," said Roberta Kelinson, an intervention coordinator for the district.
In a letter to the board, Ms. Kelinson stated, "we work countless hours before school, after school. We spend thousands of dollars out of our own pockets to purchase items we need to enhance education. I hope the district leaders and our hard-working union can come to an agreement soon."
The red shirts were distributed to union members last week. Union representatives met with members before school hours to encourage attendance at Wednesday's meeting.
"As a union, we've had to come together," saidEMEA co-president Steve Miller.
EMEA members said they plan to wear the red shirts every Wednesday until they have a contract. They also plan to attend the next board meeting on Dec. 19.
"The (teachers') responsibilities have grown, and to not be compensated for that is hard to take," said school counselor Maria Escarza. "It's the not knowing, not feeling valued, to have no contract."
Although details of the contract negotiations have not been made available, EMEA members said a two-year pay freeze is at issue. Members also said they believe the school district has spent that money on administrators' salaries, new staff and new computers.
However, the former collective bargaining agreement posted on the district's website at emsd37.org states EMEA members received a 1 percent raise in 2010 and 2.25 percent raise for the 2011-12 school year.
The district did freeze the step-pay determined by a teacher's longevity with the district and their level of education.During the freeze, the district agreed to contribute 3.25 percent toward teachers' retirement.
On Wednesday night, superintendent Kristin Humphries also addressed the EMEA's claims.
"Computers come from the lease levy, not the education fund," said superintendent Kristin Humphries. "All administrators have gotten the same raises as the teachers, not a dime more.
"The district has picked up the TRS (Teachers' Retirement System payments), paid on their behalf, thus raising their take home pay," Mr. Humphries said. Any way you look at it, they got a raise."
Like EMEA members, Mr. Humphries also hopes to soon see a new contract.
"I realize these individuals don't know what's going on and what's been offered," he said. "We have amazing teachers. It's very important we take care of those who take care of our kids."
In other news, the board approved a tentative tax levy of 4.8 percent, but with an abatement from the bond and interest fund.
"Combined with our levy, the abatement will lower taxes the third year in a row," said Mr. Humphries. "We've got to be responsible stewards of the tax money. "People are hurting."
Today is Thursday, April 17, the 107th day of 2014. There are 258 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Journeymen shoemakers of Rock Island struck for higher wages yesterday morning, asking 25 percent increases. Employers have acceded to their demand. 1889 -- 125 years ago: Lighting struck wires of the Merchants Electric Light Co. during a furious storm, and many Rock Island business houses were compelled to resort to gas as a means of illumination. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Members of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, decided to erect a new edifice at a cost of about $60,000. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Willard Anderson, junior forward for the Augustana College basketball team, which won 17 out of 22 contests, was elected captain of the quintet. 1964 -- 50 years ago: John Hoffman, Moline, president of the Sac-Fox Council of Boy Scouts, will be honored for his 50 years in scouting by members of the council at a dinner Thursday evening. 1989 -- 25 years ago: The Quad-Cities has what is believed to be the area's first elite-class gymnast. It's the stuff upon which Olympic competitors are made. Tiffany Chapman, of Rock Island, not only has earned the highest possible gymnast ranking, she won the honor at age 11.