Ringgold teachers show solidarity during contract talks
Nearly 100 teachers crowd school board meeting amid walkout threat
Ringgold Education Association President Diana Kristobek appeals to Ringgold School Board Wednesday to make reaching a new contract with the teachers a priority.
Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
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NEW EAGLE – Ringgold School District teachers packed a school board meeting Wednesday to pressure district negotiators to give them a union contract to avoid a walkout.
Nearly 100 teachers, almost half of the union, attended the school board meeting that included an agenda that did not take up the labor pact.
“We need to get this contract settled as easily as possible,” Ringgold Education Association President Diana Kristobek said while appearing before the school board.
The union representing 227 district employees voted Feb. 10 to give the teacher negotiating team authorization to call a strike any time during contract talks. The association said the vote does not mean teachers will walk off the job.
Kristobek said teachers came to the board meeting to make a plea to directors to make their new contract a top priority as they had worked 172 days under an expired labor agreement.
“We are in no way giving up trying,” she said.
Board Vice President William Stein Jr., who heads the district’s negotiating team, said he would honor an agreement between both sides that neither would negotiate a new contract in public. Contract talks are scheduled to resume Tuesday, he said.
“It’s a good thing they came out tonight to show solidarity,” Stein said during a break in the meeting.
In other business, the board approved holding a public hearing at 6 p.m. March 19 in the district administration building in New Eagle on spending $3.3 million to build an addition to the overcrowded Ringgold Elementary School North in Gastonville.
Ringgold architect J. Greer Hayden said the district will receive bids from contractors for the project in May, that the $3.3 million reflects just the cost of building new classrooms. Other work, including cafeteria expansions and creating a security entrance to the building, would cost no more than an additional $1.3 million.
The board, meanwhile, heard pleas from several students to retain Ronald McMichael, whose contract as athletic director expires June 30. The board announced a month ago it would seek applicants for the position.