Shawnee Mission teachers show up at meeting in big numbers, demanding new contract

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Teachers in the Shawnee Mission School District wore red to the Board of Education meeting Monday night to protest the lack of a new contract and demand better pay and working conditions.

Teachers in the district have been working under last year's contract since negotiations between the teacher's union and the National Education Association Shawnee Mission stalled out in September.

"Teachers at Shawnee Mission have been synonymous with a quality education," teacher Erin Rivers said. "When I came to Shawnee Mission 15 years ago from a charter school in Kansas City, Missouri, I was astounded at the level of professionalism that I was greeted with."

She told the board that money alone isn't what brought her to the meeting. She wants smaller class sizes.

"The fact that under the current proposal, I will be making less money than last year, or even the last few years is not what brought me here tonight. Pay attention to your foundation. SMSD, reduce our class sizes. Lighten our workload," she said.

Parents also showed up to support teachers.

"I chose this district because of the teachers. That's why I'm here," parent Tyler French said.  "That's why people flock to live in this area because of the teachers and their incredible, incredible accomplishments and accolades that they've brought to the district to make us all look good."

Mediation between the two sides failed in September.

Now, both sides will select an independent fact finder, who will be charged with conducting interviews and ultimately issuing a report and recommendations.

In a statement, Board President Brad Stratton said they are focused on the community and are working toward a final contract agreement.

"We are writing to provide you an update on the status of district negotiations with the National Education Association Shawnee Mission (NEASM) on a teachers’ contract for the 2019-20 school year. We are limited by law in terms of what we can say, but it is important the community know that the Board of Education and district administration values our teachers, and is committed to coming to final agreement with the teacher’s bargaining unit and continuing to work together collaboratively towards the goals outlined in the district strategic plan."

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