INDIANAPOLIS — Dozens of teachers and their supporters stood outside MSD of Pike Township's Administrative Services Building on Thursday night demanding better pay for teachers.
Bargaining for teacher contracts started Sept. 15 and will continue through Nov. 15.
Chris Ludy, a Pike High School teacher and Pike Classroom Teachers Association President, helped lead the group.
"We are here for our kids because our kids deserve the best teachers and teachers deserve fair compensation," Ludy said.
He said fair compensation doesn't mean paying teachers a huge sum of money.
"I do not know a single teacher who went into this profession to be rich," Ludy said. "We knew when we came into this profession we were not going to be millionaires, but when teachers are having to pay for their own supplies in many cases, they simply need to be compensated in a way that matches other schools, surrounding school districts."
Ludy said pay is why some teachers don't stick around MSD of Pike Township. While it's a great district to work in, the difference between starting pay and what you make after five years is less than desirable, according to Ludy.
He told WRTV that starting pay is around $44,000 a year. After five years, it's around $46,000.
Honks of support for the teachers outside fueled their resolve to make their voices heard. The passion and chants for better compensation over in the public comment portion of Thursday night's board meeting. The following is some of what was said.
"I am Marquesa Smith. A 27-year veteran with a Master's degree who isn't making $60,000 yet," one teacher said. "For 22 years, I have been in this district. I have worked hard like my colleagues. We deserve to be paid what we are worth. Pay us!"
The comments inevitably transitioned to the bus driver shortage the district is facing.
"It makes no sense that these bus drivers and teachers are working their fannies off to make sure the kids do what y'all expect them to do but yet, you'd rather take away from them," another said.
"I make $21 an hour, but from how ya'll switched our pay, I cried to my husband today because I have a car payment that's due, a cell phone that's due and my mortgage is $1,150. I don't have all that to cover that and I'm not the only that as a bus driver that has to deal with that."
Pike Township's Superintendent Dr. Flora Reichanadter, along with the board members, listened to the emotional pleas. At the end of the meeting, they thanked all those who spoke up. Reichanadter told WRTV some aspects of pay for teachers is out of her control.
"Right now, we have some challenges, but some of the challenges are not things that are part of Pike Township," Reichanadter said. "The economy and the impact of the pandemic. We are doing our best within the means that we have in order to help that," she said.
For bus drivers, Reichanadter says they have daily conversation about getting more drivers to meet their district's needs.
On Friday, Pike Township students again had an eLearning day due to bus driver absences.
"We started the year in a fragile situation because we didn't have enough drivers, but it isn't necessarily because of pay," Reichanadter said. "It's because there's just not as many people out there who want a part-time job. It is a five-hour a day job."
Still, drivers and teachers say they need more money. Reichanadter said they're doing their best to support those who help educate and transport their students.
"Unfortunately, it takes a little more time than people are giving us right now and I just ask that people give us patience," Reichanadter said. "We also have to live within our means because as a school district, we cannot go into deficit spending."
As noted earlier, bargaining for the teacher contracts ends Nov. 15. As for bus drivers, they are not unionized so the district sets their salary, starting at $20 an hour plus benefits and CDL training. They recently added a perfect attendance stipend to help keep drivers on the road.