Hermantown teachers picket for better pay

Hermantown teachers hold informational picketing

In the midst of contract negotiations, the Hermantown Teacher Union has been holding informational pickets outside the district office.

In the midst of contract negotiations, the Hermantown Teacher Union has been picketing outside of the district office.

“We’re just hoping to create awareness for our community because a lot of people don’t understand not just what we do, but the importance of what we do and what is actually going on,” said Hermantown teacher Eric Borndal.

According to the union, the 12-year average salary increase for Hermantown teachers is 1.9%.

“When I took the job at Hermantown, I took a huge pay cut and my principal was really encouraging at the time and he just said how everyone has a second job,” said Hermantown teacher Katie Brown-Mesedahl. “That was ten years ago, and things really haven’t improved.” 

The union picketed Monday morning and afternoon and will be back outside Tuesday morning. This is an informational picket, not a strike.

“We did not know they were going to be picketing,” said Hermantown Community Schools Superintendent Wayne Whitwam. “We’re in negotiations with many groups, including teachers. You know, we feel as though we’re making progress. In fact, we’ve tentatively agreed on many items.”

Retirement benefits, e-learning days, and aspects of the schedule have been tentatively agreed on while pay and insurance contributions are still being debated. There have been five meetings with another one scheduled for next Wednesday.

“I think the most important thing is having teachers, paraprofessionals, all of us in education, properly treated in a way that can support their families and just take care of the students that we have,” said Borndal. “That’s our ultimate goal, is that we have students who are ready to learn and excited to learn, and a big part of that are the teachers and the educators who are there with them every day.” 

Teacher retention is a concern as many are moving to other districts or leaving the career. 

“That’s not just here at Hermantown, that’s everywhere,” explained Borndal. “But Hermantown really would like to be a destination district, and in order to do that, we need to make sure we keep our teachers here. It goes beyond salary, but family insurance is one of the biggest areas here that we’re really looking for as well.”

Both sides of negotiations want a deal to be made that is fair and keeps teachers in the district. 

The full statement by Hermantown Community Schools is as follows:

We are in negotiations with many groups including teachers. Hermantown School District values our employees and looks forward to these contracts being settled.

As for the teachers’ contract, the District’s bargaining team feels as though we are making progress and have tentatively agreed on many items. We recognize there is still work to be done, just like there is in many other school districts across the state. Many school districts across the state are still negotiating with their teachers.

To be transparent with the process, I can share information about the last proposals each side has made at the bargaining table. The School Board’s current offer for teachers includes a 2.5% increase in 2023-24 and 2% in 2024-25 with a $555 per month increase in family insurance contribution. The teachers are currently asking for a 9% salary increase in 2023-24 and 9% increase in 2024-25. I included the last two written proposal documents from both sides for reference.

We look forward to continuing to work with our teachers’ negotiations to settle a mutually agreeable new contract.

Wayne Whitwam, Superintendent