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Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - Rochester Public Schools Superintendent Kent Pekel has issued a public statement concerning the ongoing teacher contract negotiations with the Rochester Education Association.

Until now, Pekel has largely avoided commenting publicly about the negotiations, but he says with the recent significant public discussion concerning the district's contract proposal, he feels it's necessary to update the community on the contract talks, which he says are currently at an impasse

Kim David TSM
Kim David TSM
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Pekel says the most recent offer from the school district would increase the overall cost of the next two-year contract with the teacher's union by nearly 15.5%. His statement describes the offer as "one of the largest increases in cost of any contract that has been approved or reported during the current round of negotiations between school districts and teacher's unions across the state."

The Superintendent also contends the current proposal is "significantly larger than any agreements that have been reached in other school districts today and agreements that have been reached in Rochester in the past." He goes on to say that Rochester Public Schools, since the beginning of the year, have shifted the cost of healthcare premium increases from all school district employees to the school district, benefiting the more than 72% of the REA members who opt to receive healthcare coverage through their employer.

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ThinkStock
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Pekel notes that the healthcare cost shift required the School Board to approve spending $7 million from the district's budget reserves. He describes it as an appropriate use of the reserve dollars, but argues that "it would be reckless to dig even deeper into our fund balance to achieve other objectives."

Click here to read the Superintendent's entire statement.

In response to the impasse in the negotiations,  Rochester Education President Vince Wagner has announced that its members intend to leave work at the end of their contracted workday this afternoon.

"Beginning Wednesday, January 24, 2024, and each successive Wednesday until a contract settlement is reached, teachers in Rochester Public Schools will leave work as a group at the end of the contracted workday. This does not mean teachers are walking out, it just means they are going home on time. This action will serve as a reminder of all the work that teachers do beyond their contracted hours."

photo credit: Creatas
photo credit: Creatas
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Wagner says Rochester Public School teachers routinely work beyond their contracted hours and many spend significant amounts of time doing school work in the evenings, on weekends, and during school breaks. His statement goes on to say, "We do this because we are consummate professionals and want to do the best job for our students that we possibly can."

Read the REA President's full statement here.

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