District may have longer school day

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published April 10, 2013

HARPER WOODS — School board members praised teachers for their collaboration and hard work at the bargaining table to hammer out a contract that could mean an extra hour of the school day next year, among other changes.

The school board approved the Harper Woods Education Association contract during a board meeting last month.

The new agreement makes some changes, like allowing the extra time for the school day with the possibility of extra compensation for that extra work, but only if the district’s finances are in a position to pay the extra compensation. The contract extension runs through 2017.

“I don’t think we’re ahead of the curve,” board Treasurer Jill Quarker said. “I think we’re trailblazing here. For our teachers to make that commitment without knowing if they will be compensated for it is very nice.”

Other provisions in the contract tie more things to student achievement.

Board President Brian Selburn also had positive comments about the contract.

“There’s a lot in this for the district,” he said. “There’s a lot for the teachers.

“Everybody did a great job,” he said.

He added that the contract gives the district some stability, and “to have stability and a lack of discord is really great.”

Superintendent Todd Biederwolf said he was excited about the progressive changes the district is pursing.

“What I’m most excited about in this agreement is that it clearly signifies that we’re not standing still and that we’re moving forward and that our teaching staff is absolutely committed to moving forward in this district,” he said.

“The world is changing around them, and our staff is changing with the world. We’re doing some really groundbreaking stuff,” Biederwolf said. 

He called the contract cost-neutral and said that he believes it is a balanced contract.

Another change in the contract was that the veteran teachers agreed to changes that will allow newer teachers to receive some more compensation.

“I look at this contract (and) I see a lot of collaboration. I see it being financially prudent,” Biederwolf said.

The local Education Association approved the contract with 93 percent of the union ratifying it.

Selburn called that “such a strong indication that our teachers are behind us, all working for the same thing.”

Harper Woods Education Association President Pat Schore said there was collaboration with the district, but also among the teachers themselves.

“What I think is probably one of the best things for our teachers … was the unity and the acknowledgement that we need veteran teachers and new teachers in the whole range,” she said. “Our veteran teachers did not hesitate a second, basically taking a pay freeze so that our younger teachers could get the increases so that we can maintain their employment.”

“The 93 percent just shows how much we value each other, also,” she said.