Janesville School District asks teachers to sign incomplete contracts
JANESVILLE Janesville teachers were surprised Wednesday with a letter and video in which district officials told them they would have to sign contracts by April 15 or risk termination.
At least some teachers complained to The Gazette that they’re being asked to sign a contract that doesn’t detail wages, benefits or a variety of working conditions.
Some of those details would be left blank until the school board decides them.
Superintendent Karen Schulte said she hoped the board would have some of those details settled by April 9, but she didn’t think all of them would be settled.
Teachers union President Dave Parr said having the teachers sign the contract is like buying a car and letting the dealership fill in the numbers.
Parr said signing the contract would mean that if a teacher found a new job this summer, the district could keep the teacher from leaving.
Schulte said teachers have until June 15 to resign with no penalty, and she said the district has always had the ability to keep a teacher who was under contract, but she knows of no instances when that happened.
Schulte said Parr has asked for an extension of the June 15 deadline, and the district is considering it.
“We want to be fair. We want them to know they have a job,” Schulte said, even though all the details won’t be known right away.
“If they find a district where they get a job, and things are solvent there, and that’s where they want to go, they can opt out until June 15,” Schulte said, noting that districts such as Beloit and Milton are under difficult financial constraints for the coming year.
In the past, teachers have not had to sign new contracts each year, but the district’s legal advisers told officials Friday that the procedure for employing a teacher for the 2013-14 school year is different because of Act 10, Schulte said.
Act 10 took away most union rights from teachers. Its constitutionality is yet to be decided in the courts.
Because of the changes, the school board will approve “contract modifications” on April 9, and teachers will have from April 10 to 17 to sign the contracts, according to a district news release.
Those who don’t sign will get a “preliminary notice of nonrenewal” and face termination.
The timeline is different for teachers who might decide to retire this year.
Teachers must declare an intent to retire by April 15, but they have a problem similar to that of teachers who stay: They don’t know what their benefits would be next year, particularly their post-retirement benefits.
Schulte said the union has asked to extend the date for retirements, and the district is considering that.