MAPS will still host open houses despite absence of teachers

MARQUETTE – Marquette Area Public Schools Superintendent Bill Saunders has said he wants to reassure parents Wednesday’s open houses will continue as planned, with or without teacher participation.

“We have heard from many concerned parents on whether MAPS would be holding its scheduled ‘Open Houses’ next week,” he said in a written statement released Thursday. “The open house is a valued experience for our students and families. These opportunities help in easing the first-day jitters, allow students to get to know classrooms and their building, and emphasize the importance of building relationships with teachers, principals and staff.

“We have outstanding teachers and staff that we understand may or may not participate. We acknowledge a lack of participation from teachers will detract from this invaluable experience. However, we are committed to doing everything we can to make the first day of school a positive experience.

“Please join us at our scheduled ‘open houses’ next week.”

The teachers announced Wednesday they would not participate in this year’s open houses, though they stressed it was not because a final contract had yet to be agreed upon.

The district and the Marquette Area Education Association have been negotiating a new contract for the past year, deadlocking on issues concerning salary, benefits, class size and especially steps – paid increases based on years of service to the district.

Rather, MAEA President Erin LaValley said teachers won’t attend because protocol outlined in their most recent contract, which encompassed the 2012-2013 school year, was not followed.

“The contract language does not support us attending open houses right now,” LaValley said. “That doesn’t mean that we can’t do this at a different time.”

Under Section 2 of Article IV – Teacher Responsibilities in the MAEA contract, it states, “In addition to activities during the Teacher Day (Appendix A-2), teachers are expected to participate in activities such as the following after the Teacher Day …”

The list is comprised of six activities, including “participation in up to one three-hour open house program per school building …”

LaValley said there has been no Teacher Day scheduled prior to Wednesday’s open houses, and the teachers – after much discussion – have decided to stick within the confines of their contract.

The contract also states the date of an open house must be agreed upon between building administrators and school improvement teams, something LaValley said was also not done.

LaValley urged parents to still attend the open houses even though teachers won’t be there.

“Take your kids around the building, explore, look in their classrooms. I think that will help alleviate some of the anxiety,” LaValley said, adding she hopes parents will understand the teachers’ decision. “We’re trying to do the right thing by everybody. We’re trying to do the right thing by following the contract language.”