Morenci teachers agree to concession package 1.27.10

Written by David Green.


Morenci teachers have joined other school groups in agreeing to make financial concessions due to the district’s economic situation.

The concession agreement should save the district $90,000 between now and Aug. 31, 2011, with the potential to save much more through early retirement incentives.

The Morenci Education Association (MEA) presented a five-point concession package early in the month and the document received board of education approval Jan. 11. Although not unanimous, union members approved the proposal Jan. 18.

“Due to the economic situation facing Morenci schools, the Morenci Education Association felt that it was necessary at this time to make concessions to help ensure the viability and longevity of our school system,” said MEA president Brad Brown in a statement from the union.

Morenci’s decision wasn’t a popular one at the county and state level.

“Against the recommendation of both the Michigan Education Association and the Lenawee County Education Association (groups that felt we should wait until financial circumstances became even more dire before we took action), Morenci teachers felt strongly that we pass a concession package now to do our part during these difficult economic times,” Brown explained.

Morenci’s school administration approached union members in September when the impact of falling enrollment was learned.

“It’s a very positive step for them to take,” said Morenci Superintendent of Schools Kyle Griffith. “It’s been a lengthy process and a difficult task for them.”

“Every group has given,” he said in reference to other school employees. “We’re in this together. We’re all pitching in to keep the district going.”


The greatest savings will come from a decision that each of the 43 full-time union members will contribute $1,000 annually toward their health insurance premium. Teachers who have chosen to receive cash instead of insurance benefits will each receive a thousand dollars less in pre-taxed funds.

The contribution will be made through a payroll deduction.

Brown said the change puts Morenci about in the middle of the pack among county schools regarding staff contribution to insurance costs.

Additional savings will come through the elimination of half of the annual salary increase steps. Before, teachers received an annual salary increase every year in the first 12 years of employment. Now, increases will be given every other year, starting with the second year of employment.

Another change was made in regard to pay for coaches.

Currently, Brown said, coaches receive an annual three percent salary increase once they have served for 10 years and reach the top of the pay scale. The three percent boost will be eliminated.

Coaches who are not members of the union will now receive a flat rate regardless of experience, based on a percentage of a first-year teacher’s pay. The percentage varies depending on the sport.

The final point in the concession package—an early retirement incentive—could lead to considerable savings beyond the $90,000.

“That’s the biggest potential benefit to the district,” Griffith said. “It’s really a big plus for the district.”

In conjunction with the concessions, eligible teachers are offered a $20,000 retirement incentive if at least three union members choose the option in the same year. If only two members choose to retire, the incentive drops to $15,000.

Teachers have until March 1 to choose the option for the 2010-11 school year.

In effect, Griffith said, the teachers are helping fund the early retirement incentive through their health insurance concession. Instead of early retirement funding coming from the board, he said, the union is participating by reducing the district’s costs for employee benefits. It’s a very unique situation, he said.

Brown said he hopes the cuts will help protect teaching jobs as well as benefit students.

“Our teachers care deeply for the students, as well as the district as a whole, and we feel that keeping as much of our staff intact as possible is a high priority,” he said. “In offering these concessions, we hope staff reductions will be minimized, thus stabilizing class sizes, preventing teachers from teaching outside areas of experience, and continuing to offer quality elective programs.”

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016