Grand Ledge teachers still without a contract; frustrations mounting for parents of students

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By Rachael Daniel
Living in the Ledge Staff Reporter

Six years ago when deciding where to raise a family, Bri Dennis had no doubts when choosing Grand Ledge.

Grand Ledge High School Photo by Rachael Daniel

Grand Ledge High School
Photo by Rachael Daniel

Her father and her husband’s parents all graduated from Grand Ledge High School and she believed her four children would receive the same quality education that they had, however in the last few years she has become frustrated with how Grand Ledge Public Schools has been treating its teachers.

Since the last contract expired in June 2015, the teachers union and administration have been negotiating a new contract for Grand Ledge Public School teachers.

Dennis was the first of several parents who stood in front of the Grand Ledge School Board at the school board meeting on March 28 to voice her specific concerns about one of the teachers’ main points of negotiation: planning periods.

“It pains me to see the direction our district has taken. You need to give them their planning hours. They cannot teach our children effectively if they do not get a planning hour,” said Dennis.

Grand Ledge School Board president Linda Wacyk said that parents and teachers have a different perspective of the situation than the board.

“They are looking at the problem through a different lens and their interests are narrowed to the interests of the teachers which is a very legitimate interest, but we are forced, the board, to look through a much broader lens and see a lot of different issues at once and realize that there are a lot of repercussions on kids no matter where we cut the budget,” said Wacyk.

Former educator and husband of a Grand Ledge High School teacher, Todd Marsh said at the meeting he has witnessed how the absence of a planning hour can affect a teacher.

“She was excited in August, because she was taking over some new classes, anatomy and physiology,” said Marsh. “By November, she was in tears almost everyday and was up until four in the morning working on curriculum.”

Grand Ledge High School senior Taylor McCrackin said she also sees first hand the need for her teachers to have optimal time to plan.

“I think it’s completely unfair that teachers are so disrespected by the school administrators that they won’t give them a planning period,” said McCrackin. “It’s frustrating to be a student and see your teacher clearly struggle to have enough time to grade anything.”

All GLPS School Board meetings are located at the Administration Building at 220 Lamson St. Grand Ledge, Michigan Map by Rachael Daniel

All GLPS School Board meetings are located at the Administration Building at 220 Lamson St. Grand Ledge, Michigan
Map by Rachael Daniel

According to Grand Ledge Public Schools parent Jessica Fuentes, teacher salaries are another concern for both parents and teachers.

“Grand Ledge teachers have been known to be some of the lowest paid teachers in the area. In fact, our interns will point out that Grand Ledge’s contract is actually shown sometimes in their classes on what to look for as a warning,” said Fuentes.

Wacyk also said her response to parents and other members of the community who say the board does not have its students best interests in mind is that the district has to make difficult decisions about funds with a small budget compared to the rest of the state.

“We have higher special education costs than many districts, because we serve our special education populations well and people come to us for special education services. We also have higher transportation costs that many districts, because we have 120 square miles we cover,” said Wacyk. If we were to cut funds from either one of those areas to give more money to instructional salaries we would be accused of not caring about kids and not serving kids well.”

The only way the teachers union and administration can finally reach an agreement is for both sides to compromise, said Wacyk.

“The board is very united in our priorities. We want to preserve opportunities for kids, we want the highest level of instructional practice we can afford and we want stability for our district, said Wacyk. “I would say we are very clear and united on those priorities and I think that the teachers union team needs to be very clear about its priorities and then both sides need to be prepared to meet in the middle and negotiate it at the negotiating table.”

Michigan State University educational administration professor Joshua Cowen said that lack of state funds contributes to low teacher wages.

“When it comes to money teachers tend to lose, because there are only so many dollars available to the district,” said Cowen. “It’s not like the districts are sort of holding over all this cash.”

2 thoughts on “Grand Ledge teachers still without a contract; frustrations mounting for parents of students

  1. Dale Westrick
    9041 W Herbison
    Grand Ledge MI 48837
    Phone 517-626-2256
    Date 4-10-16

    Sent 3-16-2016
    To all school board members:
    This link will take you to information in regards to water usage and conservation.
    I have concerns about the Wacousta school property I will include my concerns. The link addresses some of the concerns.
    1. Mowing of the property right up to the subdivision to the south of the school. I do not know the exact acreage but I believe it to be about 20 acres. There has been considerable flooding on Wacousta rd and much of this can be attributed to the rain water runoff from the school.
    2. These are some of the ideas I have that could be done about it.
    a. Reduce the lawn area being mowed and lease the land to a farmer to raise hay on. This would reduce mowing cost and provide income that could be used for education.
    b. This would help to resupply the aquifer and help reduce some of the flooding problem. The school district spent about $70,000 to install a retention pond east of the school to alleviate the flooding problem. The retention pond just moved the problem about 150 ft to the north.
    3. Another waste of tax dollars the amount of area and time lighting the parking lot at the school. I have noticed all the parking lot lights on late at night and after daylight in the morning. This is a considerable waste of money and could be better spent in the classroom.
    Please include this letter in your next board packet under correspondence.
    Dale Westrick 517-626-2256 any questions call or email me.
    I have not received any correspondence from the administration or school board members in regards to my letter. Some things I have noticed since I sent this letter.
    • All Parking lot lights on until 10pm at night (no events at the school)
    • Parking lot lights on at 5pm (daylight)
    • Parking lot lights on after daylight during the week.
    As I pointed out in my email this is a waste of money that would be better spent in the classroom!!!
    Dale Westrick
    Grand ledge school taxpayer:
    After attending the school board and meeting and bringing my concerns to the board I thought something might be done about the parking lot lights. This has not been the case apparently the board has chosen to ignore my concerns. This is a picture I took 4-10-16 at 730am showing all the lights on at that time. (Picture available on request)
    Dale Westrick
    Still a taxpayer!!!

  2. Great opportunity for someone to do some investigative reporting. GL Superintendent has received 16% pay increase over the last two years making him the second highest paid in mid Michigan yet the board of education states GL is at the bottom of the ladder with regard to state aid. They have also stated how important it is for GL to keep him. At what expense though?