The battle between the teacher’s union and the Waukesha School District Board of Education and administration continued Wednesday night as teachers looking to retire expressed their frustration that the 2009-10 and 2010-11 teaching contracts are heading toward arbitration.
Kathy Stonitsch, president of the Education Association of Waukesha, said 40 teachers were unable to retire with post-employment benefits before this school year and the number of teachers looking to retire will be up to 80 by the end of this school year.
The teachers that want to retire are being used as collateral damage and bargaining leverage, she said during Wednesday’s school board meeting.
“I realize that things have changed, and now we are playing hardball,” Stonitsch said.
In addition to Stonitsch, five other teachers spoke about the inability to settle the contracts and allow the teachers to retire with benefits.
“I felt loyalty to this district, and until a year and a half ago, I felt appreciated,” said Bev Bradford, who has worked for the Waukesha School District for 34 years. “Now I am a hostage. … Settle the contract, let the hostages go.”
Dan Warren, president of the school board, said the school board has always wanted the union contracts settled and have the retirement benefits given to the teachers. The benefits expired with a sunset clause in the union contracts, he said during the meeting.
“Our board clearly understands the concerns that were brought forward tonight,” Warren said. “We are as frustrated as you. I don’t think any individual associated with this process is happy about the length of time that it has taken to get us even to this point. We share your frustration, we share your concerns, and we stand ready to try to solve this issue as quickly as possible.”