Wednesday, April 23, 2014

AHEM Members Renew Q-Comp, Pass a Teacher Development & Evaluation Plan, and Elect New Vice President

Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota teachers voted this week to renew Q-Comp for the 2014-2015 school year, approved the Teacher Development and Evaluation Plan created jointly by AHEM teachers and district administrators, and elected Jay Wilkins our next AHEM Vice President.  Here are the numbers:
  • Yes on Q-Comp Renewal: 98.5%
  • Yes on Teacher Development and Evaluation Plan: 96.2%
  • Jay Wilkins for Vice President: 61.8%
A 75% majority was required to renew Q-Comp and a simple majority was needed to accept the Teacher Development and Evaluation Plan. 71% of our membership turned out to vote. Congratulations to Jay Wilkins and thanks to all who voted, all who conducted votes in their buildings, our volunteer tellers, our elections chair Amanda Glover-Peterson, and our administrative staff Janie Hemmelgarn and Angela Ekvall.

Special thanks to the Teacher Development and Evaluation Team headed by Tom Powers and Sarah Kriewall, and all those who make Q-Comp happen lead by Todd Mensink and Kim Pavlovich. The strong vote is a testament to great efforts of these groups and all those who participated in Q-Comp this year.  Together across the district, we have used these tools to improve our practice. Thank you for supporting the continuation of that important work.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota approves tentative agreement

COON RAPIDS, Minn. April 17, 2014 –Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota announced Thursday that its members have voted to approve a tentative labor agreement reached with the district earlier this month.

The agreement was accepted by teachers with 84.6 percent approval. The agreement now goes to the Anoka-Hennepin School Board for final approval at its regular meeting April 28.

"We are relieved to have our contract resolved,” said Julie Blaha, president of Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota. “Months of negotiations on an overdue contract have been an unwelcome distraction from our classrooms.”

If approved by the school board, the contract will be retroactive to July 1, 2013, and run through June 30, 2015.

Highlights of the agreement:

  • Teachers will receive a salary increase in the first year of $1,000 plus an additional 1.5 percent for more experienced teachers. In the second year, there is a 1.5 percent increase for newer teachers and 2.0 percent increase for more experienced teachers. This does not include other compensation increases tied to gains in experience and training.
  • AHEM accepted a cap on health insurance contributions from the district after the district agreed to guarantee 100 percent of the cost of a plan next year.
  • The district agreed to drop a proposal to add an extra step on the salary schedule for younger teachers.
  • AHEM agreed to take a portion of its members pay increase as a one-time stipend.
  • The district will add a new high deductible health plan with an HRA option next year and include an incentive for those who choose the plan.
Education Minnesota, the state union of educators, reported that 17 percent of the 331 regular school district contracts it tracks were unsettled as of April 16. The average salary increase for teachers this cycle was 1.7 percent in the first year and 2 percent in the second.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tentative agreement reached in Anoka-Hennepin

COON RAPIDS, Minn. April 1, 2014 - The negotiators for Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota and Anoka-Hennepin public schools have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract for the district’s 2,800 teachers.

The deal was reached after seven hours of talks on Monday night at the offices of the state Bureau of Mediation. The contract would be retroactive to July 1, 2013 and expire June 30, 2015.

“While we did need to make compromises to come to an agreement, we believe this settlement will allow our teachers to return their full attention to the work they care about most deeply – educating our students,” said AHEM President Julie Blaha.

Blaha said the agreement does not include a controversial extra step on the salary schedule that would have targeted younger teachers. The two sides also reached compromise positions on health insurance benefits and compensation.

Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota negotiators will recommend canceling a planned strike authorization vote scheduled for April 17 after reaching the deal. The members of AHEM will vote on the tentative agreement the week of April 14. If they accept it, the agreement will go to the school board for final ratification.

The two sides agreed to share the following details Tuesday. Additional information will be released after members of AHEM have been briefed on the contents of the tentative agreement.

  • AHEM accepted a cap on health insurance contributions from the district after the district agreed to guarantee 100 percent of the cost of a plan next year.
  • The district agreed to drop the extra step on the salary schedule for younger teachers.
  • AHEM agreed to take a portion of its members pay increase as a one-time stipend.
  • The salary increase, not including increases in experience or training, in the first year was $1000 for each teacher plus an additional 1.5 percent for more experienced teachers. In the second year, a 1.5 percent increase for newer teachers and 2.0 percent increase for more experienced teachers.
  • The district will add a new high deductible health plan with an HRA option next year and include an incentive for those who choose the plan.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Contract talks resume in Anoka-Hennepin on Monday

COON RAPIDS, Minn. March 30, 2014 - The negotiating team for Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota has agreed to resume contract talks with the district starting at 5 p.m. Monday, March 31.

The next bargaining session was requested by the Anoka-Hennepin district negotiations team. It will be held at the offices of the state Bureau of Mediation Services.

AHEM will update the media on the results of the talks on Tuesday morning via email and on our negotations website,

AHEM remains committed to negotiating a fair contract for its 2,800 members. However, a strike authorization vote is scheduled for April 17.

“We don’t have any details about the district’s new proposal may be, but we are looking forward to learning about it and working toward an affordable settlement that is good for our members and our students,” said Julie Blaha, president of Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota.

Friday, March 28, 2014

6-hour negotiating session ends with no deal in Anoka-Hennepin

Here is the press release we sent out just now:

COON RAPIDS, Minn. March 28, 2014 – Negotiators from Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota and the Anoka-Hennepin School District were at the bargaining table for six hours Thursday, but did not reach a tentative agreement on a new contract.

AHEM President Julie Blaha said, “The teams exchanged several proposals, but made minimal progress. We are still apart on our main issues of disagreement, but will continue to look for ways to resolve our differences.”

The negotiating session, which ended at 11 p.m. Thursday, failed to make headway on two key sticking points, including a proposal that would raise health insurance costs long term and a proposed change to the salary schedule that would hurt younger teachers.

AHEM has scheduled a strike authorization vote for April 17. At that time, the 2,800 members of AHEM will decide whether to give their union leadership to the authority to call a strike at a future date. It would not trigger an immediate strike.

Negotiators from the district and AHEM now have met 17 times during the past 10 months. The state the Bureau of Mediation Services is overseeing the talks. No new bargaining sessions are scheduled, although Blaha said the AHEM team remains ready to continue negotiations.

“No one knows more than teachers how disruptive a strike would be for our communities.” Blaha said. “That’s why reaching a fair contract through negotiations is our top priority. However, we also can’t accept a contract designed to divide our membership at a time when the challenges facing our students and our profession require us to be unified.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Next Mediation Session Set for Thursday, March 27th

Today, we heard through our mediators from the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services that the district is interested in meeting with us next Thursday, March 27th beginning at 5:00 pm. We have agreed. In addition, three school board members will also be at the table with us.  We appreciate that the school board heard our concerns and is willing to meet with us face to face.

We are looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and working toward a fair settlement.  This does not change any of our other scheduled activities including rallying before the school board meeting on Monday, March 24th, 6:00 pm at the Sandburg Education Center (1902 Second Ave in Anoka) or the strike authorization vote scheduled for April 17th.

We will keep you posted, 

Your Negotiators, 
Paul, LeMoyne, Vicki, Val, Tom, Jay, David, Duane, and Julie

Monday, March 17, 2014

AHEM sets strike authorization vote for April 17

COON RAPIDS, Minn. March 17, 2014 – The teachers in the state’s largest school district will vote April 17 on whether to go on strike against the Anoka-Hennepin school district.

The 80 members of the Representative Assembly of Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota voted Monday to put the question of a strike to their colleagues next month at the National Sports Center in Blaine.

“We still hope to negotiate an affordable contract that’s good for our students and our profession,” said Julie Blaha, president of Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota. “Unfortunately, our negotiations are stuck. We need to finally get the district’s decision makers to the table.”

Negotiators from the district and AHEM have met 16 times during the past nine months and failed to reach an agreement. The key issues have been health insurance, compensation and a district proposal to change the salary schedule in a way that targets young teachers.

No members of the school board have attended any bargaining sessions.

“We’ve been trying really hard to find a compromise that removes all the uncertainty in the budget for next year while being fair to both our newest teachers and most experienced members,”Blaha said, “but for our negotiators, it sure seems like the district doesn’t feel any urgency to get this done.”

No additional bargaining sessions are scheduled. However, the two sides may go back to the table at any time.

Next Steps:
·       Informational meetings: AHEM will schedule informational meetings with teachers prior to the vote. The details will be shared as they become available.
·       The vote: All members of our bargaining unit are eligible to vote. The specific schedule and options for absentee voting will be shared as soon as it is determined.
·       Vote results: If a majority of those voting vote yes, the AHEM Executive Board has the authority to call a strike in the future. The board is not obligated to call an immediate strike.
·       Notice of a Strike: If a strike is authorized by the members and if the AHEM Executive Board calls a strike, the union must give the district formal notice of its intent to strike. A mandatory 10 day cooling off period follows. A strike could begin at any time during the 15 days after the cooling off period.
·       Negotiations: The AHEM Bargaining Team will work toward a settlement. A tentative agreement that makes progress on our priorities will halt this process toward a strike.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mediation Session #4

We are disappointed in the lack of progress during today’s mediation session.  After the movement made during our last session, we are down to resolving a few major issues. We were unable to move forward on those points because the key decision makers for the district - school board members - were absent.   We have met a total of 16 times over ten months (12 in open bargaining, 4 times in mediation) and not one school board member has attended even one meeting.

Last week, we postponed discussion of further actions until this Monday, March 17th. At that meeting of AHEM Building Representatives, our negotiations team will recommend that we schedule a date for a strike authorization vote.  We will share more details at that meeting so that our representatives can decide our next steps.

Throughout this process, our members’ support has been invaluable - thank you.  Together, we can achieve a fair, competitive settlement,

Your AHEM Bargaining Team:
Paul, Jay, Vicki, Tom, LeMoyne, Val, Duane, David, and Julie

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mediation Session #3

The AHEM and district negotiations teams met today for our third mediation session. Our team believes we made enough progress to suspend Work to Rule effective immediately.  At Monday's special Representative Assembly and Executive Board meeting, our bargaining team will recommend that we postpone discussing a strike authorization vote until after our next mediation session.

We and the district team will schedule an additional session at the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services over our spring break.  We will update the results of that meeting on our website at

We believe that our members' work played a major role in our progress today.  Your showing up and taking action is deeply appreciated. 

We still have work to do, but today was a step in the right direction. We will keep you posted,

Your AHEM Bargaining Team:
Paul, Jay, Vicki, Tom, LeMoyne, Val, Duane, David, and Julie

Monday, February 24, 2014

Statement to the School Board at the 2-24-14 Meeting

School Board Chair Heidemann, Board Members, Superintendent Carlson, guests. My name is Julie Blaha and I am the president of Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota, our teachers union.  I am joined by the AHEM Negotiations Team, colleagues, fellow union members, and neighbors:

It’s time.

Our contract is 239 days over due.

And we are not alone. There are seven groups that are over seven months overdue for a new contract in our district. You may approve a one-year contract for Interpreters tonight. Custodians are 359 days – almost a year – overdue.

We are doing our part to come to a fair, reasonable settlement.

·      We started by making our bargaining process truly open. We met in the evening so more people could observe. We shared our proposals publically all along the way.
o   Despite that transparency, Superintendent Carlson’s last interview in MinnPost regarding bargaining shows you all are not up to speed on what actually happened during those twelve sessions.

·      We made offers based on your own budget assumptions. Then we double checked to see that your plans were affordable. (They were.)
o   You responded with economic offers that would continue years of take home pay that has remained unchanged or even dropped for many of our teachers.

·      In November, we came here and shared our concerns about lack of progress and asked you to join us at the table.
o   You offered a Meet & Confer, which is an informal meeting, but weren’t willing to join us at the bargaining table where decisions are actually made.

·      We sent you over 2,000 postcards highlighting our above average student achievement results that deserve the recognition of a fair, competitive contract.
o   We have heard no response.

·      We filed for mediation.
o   After two sessions, we (as in AHEM) have made real movement at the table. Apart from shifting things around, your position is virtually unchanged.

·      We began to working to rule, where we withhold the many voluntary activities teachers do above and beyond their normal duties. That is one of the most wrenching actions teachers can take.
o   Again, no response.

We are running out of options.

We don’t understand why we are in this place when our district’s financial situation is improving and academic performance is on the rise.

·      Our district has unprecedented reserves, $94 million dollars at last count – that’s about 23% of our budget.  The National Association of State Budget Officers recommends 5%-15% in a fund balance. We are well beyond that.

·      School funding finally turned the corner at the legislature. We are seeing an increase of about $13 million over the period of our contract.

·      Your staff is delivering above average student achievement results. Our scores are above average in every subject and at every level.  We were singled out for our progress just two weeks ago by the Star Tribune.

All of that should add up to a reasonable settlement.

Yet, if we were to accept your current offer, we would be taking one of the worst settlements in the state. That just doesn't add up.

·      It is time for serious offers that make real progress toward a settlement.

·      It is time to budget in a way that puts people before fund balances.

·      It is time to recognize the significant progress we are making for our students.

We are doing our part. It is time for you to do yours.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mediation Session #2

We met with the district team and mediator from about nine to noon today at our office. In mediation, we can't go into detail but we can tell you this: the district made a financial offer that had some compensation shifts from one area to another.  However, it was virtually unchanged in total value from their last offer.  We are deeply concerned about the lack of progress today.

Your support of our team has been invaluable - we appreciate it.  See you on Monday!


Your AHEM Negotiations Team: Paul, LeMoyne, Vicki, Jay, Tom, Val, and Julie

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Affordability of Our Offers

Our proposal of 2.5 percent increase in the salary schedule each year while maintaining current benefits was not only based on the idea that it is a fair, competitive offer, but that it is also reasonable given our district’s financial situation. Here are the main ideas that make our package affordable:

New Funding
Improved funding from the Legislature has helped several districts increase pay for their teachers.
·       The basic funding formula increased for all districts
·       New state funding for all-day, every-day kindergarten will free up money we now put into sites that already have it
·       The Legislature increased a compensatory education pilot for the Anoka-Hennepin district
·       Impact: $7.7 million available

Fund balance history from our district's most recent audit
Appropriate Fund Balances
The professional organization of school finance officers says school districts should hold reserves of 5 percent to 15 percent, with larger districts safely able to maintain the lower levels.
·       Currently, the district has 7 percent to 9 percent of our funds in the unassigned fund balance, which is one of several such fund balances
·       District fund balances have been rising steadily over the past six years to point they are outpacing the state average in both sheer size and rate of growth
·       Impact: $15.8 million available

The district overstates the cost of our package
The district artificially inflates the actual value of our compensation package through the use of the “cast forward” method of predicting future costs.
·       Thirty positions in our unit are paid for by Q-Comp
·       Thirty positions that will be cut next year are costed against our package
·       An estimate of 10 percent increase in health care costs is not likely
·       Retiree savings, conservatively based on our past five-year history, is $30,000 each for at least 75 retirees. Currently, the district only considers $25,000 savings for 50 teachers
·       Impact: Reduces district estimate of package costs by $8 million

Our Fair Share
In creating our proposals, we are mindful of the many needs and obligations of our district.
·       Teacher compensation and benefits currently amount to 61.5 percent of the district budget
·       Our proposal would maintain that share of the budget.
·       By keeping our request reasonable, other employee groups and programs will be able to access increased funding
·       Based on our calculations, our proposal is not only affordable, it leaves additional funds available for other proposals like class size / case load reduction, substitute relief for special education teachers, and increased pay for hourly subbing
·       Overall Impact: These ideas covers costs with $5.8 million to spare

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wednesday, February 6 Session Cancelled Due to Illness

Due illness on the district team, today’s mediation session was cancelled and rescheduled for Friday, February 21st.  Our February 27th session is still on the schedule as well.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mediation Session #1

We had our first bargaining session with a mediator today (that's the 13th session overall for this round of bargaining).  We met for five hours at the ESC. Our first session of mediation was typical in that it focused on bringing the mediator up to speed and ensuring everyone had a clear understanding of each side’s proposals and priorities.

One difference in this phase of bargaining is that both sides are strongly advised by the Bureau of Mediation Services to keep the bargaining at the table – that is, not to publicize the specifics of our discussion. We agreed to that principle.  We can say that we have scheduled two more sessions with the district and mediator: Thursday, February 6th and Thursday, February 27th.

Walking in to the ESC and seeing all the red, hearing your stories of how you are Working to Rule, and the messages of support are deeply appreciated by the whole team.  Keep up the good work – your unity and resolve are making a difference,

Your AHEM Negotiations Team: Paul, LeMoyne, Vicki, Jay, Tom, Val, and Julie

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Moving to Mediation

Message sent to AHEM members December 20th, 2013:

Six months of bargaining between the AHEM negotiations team and the district representatives have produced so little progress that we believe it is now time to request state mediation.

We expect this step will unfortunately move talks behind closed doors, but we believe it will also accelerate our progress toward a fair and competitive settlement that will allow our educators to once again give their undivided attention to teaching and learning.

Our meeting Wednesday evening finally convinced us that we needed to try something new. It was the twelfth contract bargaining session and we made no significant progress. The current district offer is virtually unchanged from their first offer.

The district continues to insist that almost all the new money on the salary schedule come from a decrease in the value of health insurance benefits. In addition, the district has yet to respond to a number of our proposals, including extending parental leave to mothers.

More specifically, on Wednesday the district team claimed there is no real difference between the Choice Select and Elect/Essential health insurance plans. They repeated their proposal to change from 100 percent single coverage to a flat dollar amount that would need to be renegotiated each round of contract bargaining.

They also did not move from their last salary schedule increase offer of Steps 1-11: zero percent the first year and 1 percent the second; Career Steps: 1.25 percent the first year and 1.55 percent the second; and the addition of "Step 11.5" to add a year between step 11 and Career 1. (For more details, visit

As you can see, we need the help of the Bureau of Mediation Services. We anticipate the mediator will follow standard practice and close sessions to the public, but we will continue to provide you with as many details as possible during mediation.

Your input and participation has been invaluable to us. We cannot exaggerate the importance of the support we felt when hundreds of our colleagues gave up their nights to attend bargaining sessions.

We are honored to work on your behalf for a contract you deserve for the great work you do, and that helps you educate your students effectively. 

We wish you a rejuvenating break and will keep you posted,

Your AHEM Negotiations Team: Paul, LeMoyne, Vicki, Jay, Tom, Val, and Julie