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Pike Equity Council member resigns due to teacher contract impasse

Posted at 10:23 AM, Nov 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-30 10:23:22-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A member of the MSD of Pike Township's Equity Council has resigned as the district and teachers union await a mediator in an attempt to settle an impasse over new teacher contracts.

On Monday, Deb Dunlevy sent a lengthy email to Superintendent Dr. Flora Reichanadter and other district stakeholders, detailing why she no longer felt she could be on the council.

"The public announcement of two new offers toward the teachers followed by the information that neither of those offers contained raises for the experienced teachers who most needed it has finally convinced me that you are not negotiating in good faith and have no intention of doing any more than the law forces you to do. This is not a commitment to equity," Dunlevy wrote.

Dunlevy echoed many of the same sentiments when she spoke with WRTV about the matter.

"We love our Pike Community. I love my Pike Community. I think we are committed as a whole to equity," Dunlevy said. "As the labor dispute started happening, first with our non-certified staff, the bus drivers and then with teachers negotiations with the union, I grew more and more concerned. All of the goals that we've set in this Equity Council, all the strategies we have, rely upon our teachers and staff to execute them."

Dunlevy said she felt some hope about this situation before Thanksgiving Break. On Tuesday, four MSD of Pike Township schools again had eLearning days due to teacher absences.

"All of the parents were notified that offers were made so I took that as a very good sign and I was encouraged, only to discover those offers were not actual salary increases," Dunlevy said.

WRTV confirmed an email was sent by Pike Classroom Teachers Association President Chris Ludy telling his members the offers the school put forth did not increase base salary, only providing one-time stipends with insurance premiums increasing by $100 a month.

RELATED | MSD of Pike Township heads to Thanksgiving Break, no deal on teacher contracts

Dunlevy said that finding out those details made her feel like the district was not negotiating in good faith. That's when she decided to resign from the Equity Council which she had been a part of the past three years.

She says this back-and-forth over teacher contracts has negatively impacted students in varying ways. When kids miss school or switch to eLearning with little notice, Dunlevy believes it creates the opposite effect of what the Equity Council and the district as a whole say they want to work toward.

"Not all children are effected equally by this and if we're trying to provide equal opportunities to them and work towards more equitable outcomes to our students we have to stop doing the things that undermine that," she said.

We reached out to MSD of Pike Township and Pike Classroom Teachers Association for a comment on Dunlevy's resignation. PCTA has not gotten back to us.

A statement from Sarah Dorsey, a district spokesperson, is below:

Our equity council does critical work and it is always disheartening to lose a passionate member. As a district, we value our educators and staff and are committed to working toward a fair and responsible resolution. Unfortunately, inaccurate information is circulating in regards to ongoing negotiations. We will continue to follow the process, negotiate in good faith, and work toward short and long-term solutions that will allow us to make significant advancements in employee compensation.

Sarah Dorsey

Read Dunlevy's full resignation letter below:

Dear Dr. Flora,

I am writing to officially resign from my work with Pike's Equity Council.

The events of the last several months have convinced me that the leadership of this council is only interested in the appearance of pursuing equity and not the action that is necessary to make our district more equitable in fact. Aware that since I am not an employee of Pike there was likely much I did not not understand, I have investigated as much as possible during these last months of labor disputes and waited to see signs of the commitment to equity that you have previously expressed. I have spoken at length with a parent who is an accountant and has looked carefully at Pike's budget. I have spoken with many teachers on all levels, both members and non-members of the union, and have found detailed information about what is happening. Still, I hoped that speaking out and making our support of teachers heard would be enough to influence what must certainly already be your desire. But the public announcement of two new offers toward the teachers followed by the information that neither of those offers contained raises for the experienced teachers who most needed it has finally convinced me that you are not negotiating in good faith and have no intention of doing any more than the law forces you to do. This is not a commitment to equity.

I and others on this council have put in hours of unpaid time in the hope of moving our district toward more equitable practices, but I now see that other priorities will always take precedence.

Dr. Flora, I urge you to consider the work we have done in the past three years. After identifying the equity needs in our schools, we developed a strategic plan with three main goals. 1. By May of 2024, 75% of MSD of Pike Township staff will implement Culturally Sustaining Practices (CSP) that support an equitable learning environment. 2. By July 1, 2024, programs within MSD of Pike Township are accessible to all and reflect the demographics of the district. 3. Using quarter 1-3 of the 2018-2020 school years as baseline data, the number of discipline referrals at each individual campus of Black/African American students will reduce by 20% by July 1, 2024.

Each of these goals, the entirety of our work, depends for implementation on the involvement of quality teachers with adequate equity training and experience. To work toward Goal 1, we have invested countless hours (and also funds) in professional development to train teachers in culturally sustaining practices. We have chosen Equity Facilitators for each building from among our teachers and staff. For Goal 2, we have discussed at length the need for continued professional development in the selection for our high ability programs. Currently those who best understand how to identify high ability students are the HA teachers who have paid for their own HA training. To achieve Goal 3, teachers and other staff have been selected from each building to spend after-hours time analyzing discipline referrals and coming up with plans to improve the way referrals are handled. Many, if not most, of these Equity Facilitators and discipline committee members are experienced teachers in the pay category that is least competitive with other districts, meaning that these valuable members of our on-the-ground equity work are at high risk of leaving our district.

Knowing this as I do, I cannot see any purpose in continuing to attend meetings and discuss equity initiatives that are doomed to failure through a lack of commitment to the kind of self-reflective and highly trained teachers and staff that we need to implement them.

I and my family remain committed to Pike schools and to pursuing equity in our community. But from now on we will focus our time on working with those who actually share our commitment.

Thank you,
Deb Dunlevy