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Frustrations remain over tentative Hammond teacher contract

Hammond Teachers Federation President Louis Gikas speaks to the school board during a public hearing on May 8.
screenshot from School City of Hammond YouTube video
Hammond Teachers Federation President Louis Gikas speaks to the school board during a public hearing on May 8.

The proposed Hammond teacher contract drew some criticism during a public hearing Wednesday. The tentative agreement does not include any raises to the base salary, but teachers are also concerned about increases to their health insurance costs.

Hammond Central teacher Anita Cox called the contract unfair and said it would drive teachers out of Hammond. "If an outsider reads our contract, they might wrongly assume that we are not paying anything, when, in fact, our premiums have doubled," Cox told board members.

Superintendent Scott Miller said, despite concessions on both sides, the school community came together to ensure a fair contract while containing costs.

But Hammond Teachers Federation President Louis Gikas said he was disappointed with the process, accusing the central office of deliberately trying to destroy union members' trust. "Three administrators and three board trustees have destroyed this district, and I would go as far to say that you'll go down in history on the bad side of the reading of that history, not on the good," Gikas said.

The two sides failed to reach an agreement by the state's November deadline and had been at a stalemate for months. Now, School City of Hammond plans to close three elementary schools and cut dozens of non-teaching positions, in response to declining enrollment, the end of federal COVID-19 funding, the non-renewal of its operating referendum and higher-than expected insurance costs.

Gikas said the Hammond Teachers Federation only accepted the agreement for the sake of the district and its students. "We're willing to forgive, but rest assured, we're not going to forget. And we'll treat you as you treated us during this session of negotiations," Gikas added, looking ahead to next fall's contract talks.

The contract will be up for the school board's approval next Tuesday.

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