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Hammond school superintendent announces tentative agreement with teachers federation

School City of Hammond

As the School City of Hammond prepares to close schools and lay off staff, the stalemate over its teacher contract may be nearing an end.

Superintendent Scott Miller made the announcement at the start of Tuesday's school board meeting. "Trustees, I am pleased to announce that the School City of Hammond administration has reached a tentative agreement with the Hammond Teachers Federation on a contract this morning, so happy to have that process where we're together on," Miller told board members.

The two sides failed to reach an agreement by the state's November deadline and had been at a stalemate since then. Teachers have said they weren't asking for a raise — they just didn't want major cuts.

The tentative agreement posted on the School City of Hammond's website says there would be no base salary increases for the 2023-2024 school year. The starting salary remains $49,000 for fully-licensed teachers and $47,000 for those on an emergency permit. The proposed contract does include changes to how teachers are compensated for supervising students from other classes if their regular teacher is absent. There are also changes to health insurance and compensation for additional duties.

Meanwhile, the reductions in various non-teaching positions drew frustration during Tuesday's board meeting. Forty custodians were set to be laid off, but Superintendent Miller said he was able to keep some recess aides with no major cost impact.

Board member Carlotta Blake-King worried the reductions could open the door to lawsuits over health, safety and civil rights violations. "Carpetbaggers, you've come in here and you've raped our district," Blake-King said during a public comment portion of Tuesday's meeting. "You destroyed it. You destroyed or children's morality, their sense of accomplishment. These children care, and they can do it."

But board member Cindy Murphy worried that without the cuts to custodial staff, the district would have to close even more schools. "Everything we've done is to keep dollars in the classroom," Murphy said. "Keeping dollars in the classroom is looking at everything else except for our teachers. So if we keep custodians, where else do we cut?"

Still, Blake-King and Kelly Spencer voted against the reductions, arguing that a better way to cut costs would be for Superintendent Miller and other top administrators to take a pay cut.

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.