Crosby-Ironton School Board Chair Scott Kile said the district's teachers' union this week informed the school board the union had conducted a vote of no confidence against Superintendent Linda Lawrie and demanded the board begin a process of non-renewal of her contract.
Kile, in a letter to the editor to be published in Sunday's Brainerd Dispatch, said, "All school board members are in full support of the superintendent, Linda Lawrie. Furthermore, the school board will soon begin negotiations with Ms. Lawrie on a subsequent contract that will ensure her continued outstanding services for the district and our students in the years to come."
Kile said Thursday that Lawrie's contract expires in June of 2006. Lawrie could not be reached Thursday for comment.
The school board chair also said that the union's action has no legal authority or effect on the contract between the district and Education Minnesota Crosby-Ironton, the teachers' union.
"Their action," Kile wrote "should be viewed as a pressure tactic and a publicity stunt."
The Dispatch learned of the no-confidence vote when it received Kile's letter to the editor.
Brian Gaffney, union co-president for Education Minnesota Crosby-Ironton, said Thursday the union did send a letter to the school board and requested the board contact them by Friday to set up a meeting to discuss the issues they have with Lawrie and problems within the district. Gaffney declined to speak about the no-confidence vote and other grievances the union has with the district.
"We're still hoping since it's Thursday and tomorrow is Friday that they'll contact us regarding the letter we sent to them," said Gaffney said Thursday. "This was going to be a matter between us and the school board in a professional manner and we weren't going to go to the public or press with it. For us, this is a very serious situation and I don't want to have a knee-jerk reaction to it."
The school board, Kile said in his letter has decided to "provide greater focus on academics as opposed to putting out fires started by others."
Contacted Thursday, Kile said the board wants to improve academics and increase the school district's rating from a 3 to a 5. He said the board has dealt with three grievances from the union, a number he termed unprecedented.
"They're not happy with the superintendent's performance since she was hired several years ago," Kile said Thursday. "They don't like the fact that staff problems have not been solved to their satisfaction, resulting in numerous grievances."
Kile said one grievance dealt with the board's non-renewal of non-tenured teachers, who he said can be laid off without cause.
Another dealt with the salary paid to a former teacher who had resigned and was rehired as a mentor. The union contended she should be paid on a pro-rated scale at the level she was paid when she resigned rather than at a substitute teacher rate, Kile said.
In Thursday's interview Kile described the grievances as petty and as a form of retaliation.
Crosby-Ironton teachers were on strike from Feb. 9 to April 6 until a contract settlement was reached.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858. MIKE O'ROURKE can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5860.
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