Community rallies behind teachers during Central’s open house night

Teachers skip open house night as contract negotiations stall


Emily Kruse

Members of the community gathered in support of teachers outside Liberty Memorial Central Middle School on Sept. 6.

By Nadia Sanburn and Emily Kruse

Lawrence USD 497 parents, students and teachers gathered on Thursday night at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School to show support for district teachers.

The gathering was spurred by recent teacher contract negotiations, which have gone to impasse after district officials and teachers were unable to reach a deal.

The protest came on what was supposed to be open house night at Central, and many teachers decided to not work the open house, as it is not a part of their contract.

LMCMS teacher Jackie Stafford came to the protest as a parent and an educator.

“Well, I’m a parent, but I’m also a teacher, so I wanted the district to recognize the amount of time teachers spend volunteering their time, not getting paid, so I chose not to work open house because that’s not it my contract, and since they are trying to really stick to the contract, we as teachers are trying to stick to the contract,” Stafford said. “And then as a parent, I came to support teachers in general.”

Stafford has been working in the district since 1994.

“I would like for the district and the board to consider what teachers think are priorities before they start making budget decisions,” she said. “They asked the principals what their priorities were, they never asked the teachers, and sadly teachers were not put on the list as priorities. Nor were paraeducators or classified staff. I think we just don’t feel valued right now.”

Jenny Skillman, a parent, initiated the protest.

“I felt as a parent that there were lots of parents that support teachers and their efforts and a lot of members in the community that side of the Central school that support teachers, so that’s why I’m here,” she said. “I’m here to say our teachers matter. They should be valued. I want to see them supported and to see the negotiations process move forward.”

Erin Bark, a past employee for USD 497, came out to show support for teachers.

“I came out tonight because I used to work in the school district and I see what teachers do on a daily basis and how much they do outside of their normal contract day, so I know it’s a lot of work and I basically came out to show support for them,” Bark said.

Bark said the school board should try to view this issue more through the teachers’ eyes.

“Try to spend a day or longer in their shoes and try to see what it is exactly that they do, and see how much they do outside of what their normal business day,” she said. “I think I would just encourage them to take a deeper look if at all possible.”

Grayson Barker, 7-year-old who attends Broken Arrow Elementary, attended the protest. He said he showed up to the gathering because “It’s helping teachers.”