After months of frequent meetings and consistent communication between the district and union leadership, 97.5% of the members of the district’s teachers union recently voted to approve a new biennial contract.
“The overwhelming support this agreement received proved why we are fortunate in Fridley to have a strong relationship with our teachers and the union,” said Jake Karnopp, school board chair of FPS.
Phil Boyd, Fridley Education Association (FEA) president and Stevenson Elementary kindergarten teacher, insisted he has never seen such a high vote of approval in his time with the district.
“We landed on an agreement that we felt, as a union, was respectful of us, that respected the passion for the job,” Boyd observed. “We appreciated the process, the effort and the respect we were shown.”
In 2023, the FEA and district came to the negotiating table with a foundation of respect and collaboration under their feet. Even at times when finding common ground became a balancing act, both sides remained committed to seeing each others’ points of view. What emerged from the process was an agreement that recognizes the district’s limited resources and a shared understanding that what is best for staff is what is best for students.
“I am so proud of the contributions and collaboration between the FEA, the school board and the district team,” said Brenda Lewis, superintendent of FPS. “We as a district and community are stronger when all of our staff feel supported and valued. We take a lot of pride in that and will continue to strive for nothing less for everyone at Fridley Public Schools.”
The historic accomplishment prompted the union to surprise the school board and district administration with a show of support and appreciation at the December 19 school board meeting, at which the board was slated to ratify the contract.
“We had probably 75 to 100 members that came out to greet the school board and the district negotiating team, just to say thank you,” Boyd recollected. “We gave them cocoa and cookies and told them how we appreciated the collaboration, the respect that was given to us. And just thanked them and expressed our desire to continue to work together in this manner.”
The district team and board members were moved by the gesture.
“It was fantastic to see the teachers union come out and shine a spotlight on the cooperative success we experienced in getting this deal done,” Karnopp said.
The successful negotiations set a notably positive tone for the settlement of subsequent contracts, including a 100% approval by staff covered under the district’s custodial agreement. The district’s nutritional services staff were the first bargaining group to settle, also with a 100% approval rate. Contracts for clerical, principals and paraeducators are expected to be completed in the coming weeks.