The West Bloomfield School District Board of Education voted 5-2 Thursday night to introduce a collective agreement for its teachers` union, with about 450 teachers protesting outside and expressing anger at recent developments in a months-long process. Lori Tunick was one of the few union members from outside the district to speak Thursday. She said that based on her experience working for Southfield Public Schools, where she claimed to have worked for 12 years and was under contract for only three of them, West Bloomfield would be in difficult times because of the board`s decision. “I`ve never seen a board of directors make such a decision in a hurry. The school didn`t wake up last week and said, “I think we`re broke,” said the Southfield-Lathrup biology teacher to a nervous laugh and applause. Five years ago, you knew things were bad. Look at what the other districts are doing. It won`t be better overnight – think about what you`re doing, how to hurt these people. It must be a just peace. Before making public comments, trustees Melanie Torbert and Matt Chase rejected the dissenting voices to resounding applause, pointing to the poor negotiating tactics of both parties and the regrets of the decision. “I`m not and I`ve never been afraid to impose a contract… What I am angry about is the lack of structural changes in the council`s proposal.
This council hijacked this process and made fun of it. I don`t see how the end justifies the means,” said Torbert, a member of the board of directors since 2005. I was appalled by the obvious ostentation that the borough has proven itself the fastest,” Chase said of other school districts that had completed their contract negotiations over long periods of time. “An agreement could have been reached if both sides had taken the negotiations seriously.” The meeting ended with a comment from Superintendent JoAnn Andrees, who expressed deep regret for the coercion with a friendly and regular tone. When Andreès spoke of a “mutual agreement,” the members of the teachers` union left the auditorium en masse as they shouted at her, and she began to speak louder. “The goal is to continue to make progress in positive but fiscally responsible action. I was hoping that day would never come. We must control our destiny and secure our future. Without this decision tonight, we will continue to reduce until we de-advise the district,” Andrees said. The votes were cast by Randi Sakwa, Nelson Hirsch, Raman Singh, Bruce Tobin and Einment.
Of the five, only Tobin and Einment spoke during the meeting. “The union`s absolute reluctance to accept the concept of a sustainable reduction of the district budget from a single economy is an uncertain obstacle and one of the most concrete blocks that have led to a stalemate,” Einrig said. “Everyone sitting here is well aware that this permanent break has led to a total stalemate.” “As long as there was money in the bank, we gave it to our teachers. Unfortunately, we don`t have any money,” Vice President Tobin said of the district`s $1.7 million deficit. Today`s resolution … will help, but it will not solve the deficit. It`s a band-aid that has a big cut. Prior to the public meeting at 8:30 p.m.m The Board of Directors held a one-hour closed-door meeting.