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Willmar, Minn., School District will not appeal arbitration ruling

WILLMAR — The Willmar School District will not appeal an arbitration decision from last month.

A state arbitrator ruled that the monitoring of reading progress by students is a teaching duty under the district's contract with the Education Minnesota educators' union.

Three elementary teachers, Cheryl Duininck, Marsha Little and Ellin Wentzell, had filed a grievance over the way they were scheduled.

The School Board denied the grievance in February, and the Education Minnesota union filed for arbitration on behalf of the teachers.

The teachers said that they were being assigned teaching duties in excess of the time allowed under their contracts. They were hired as part-time employees with contracts for 86 percent of a full-time job, and their hours for teaching load, general duty time and prep time were pro-rated.

They claimed that the testing and monitoring they did was part of their teaching load, but they were assigned to do it during their general duty time.

Arbitrator Harley Ogata said in his July 20 decision that the language in the Education Willmar contract led him to side with the teachers. He ordered the parties to negotiate a settlement that would compensate the teachers for the additional teaching time they were assigned in the past school year.

In an email Thursday, Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said the district had wanted clarification on whether certain activities were considered teaching duty or general duty. Though school officials disagreed with the arbitrator, they did get the answer they sought, he said.

The three are the only teachers affected by the ruling, Kjergaard said.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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