ITHACA, NY – Hundreds gathered on Meadow St. on Monday for a solidarity walk in support of the Ithaca School District teachers, who’ve reached an impasse in their negotiations with the school district administration.

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The crowd spanned almost three full blocks, holding a variety of signs. Some had messages of solidarity and support for the teachers. Others provided educational info for passers-by about the reasons for the rally. One youth’s sign read, “Give my dad a raise… I need more money!”

Many signs simply read “Honk if you love teachers,” with many passing drivers obliging enthusiastically.

Ithaca’s teachers are in the process of negotiating a new contract with the district, but the negotiations have broken down and a mediator has been called in. Teachers are asking for better wages, improved benefits, and more opportunities for professional development.

The purpose of the rally was to educate the public on some of the issues facing Ithaca’s teachers. According to statistics from SeeThroughNY, wages for Ithaca teachers ranked 579 out of 667 in the state. Ithaca’s teachers make less than several neighboring municipalities, including Lansing, Groton, and Cortland.

Adam Piasecki, President of the Ithaca Teacher’s Association wanted to make clear that this was an issue between the teachers and board. “This is not a plea to the community to pay more taxes or do anything that would be a burden on them. We’re asking the board of education and central admin to make a concerted effort toward looking at how the budget is allocated.”

A mantra for this movement has been the idea that if you want to attract and retain quality teachers, you need to pay them fairly. Piasecki noted that 31 Ithaca teachers left the district last school year to pursue better opportunities.

“Unfortunately I’m finding out we have [two] teachers who are resigning mid-year this year. They’re resigning now because they’re getting better offers elsewhere,” said Piasecki.

The school district’s administration has been largely silent on these issues. A communication officer from the district said that the administration will be addressing these issues at a board meeting on Tuesday.

Piasecki will be at that meeting, and expects to see many other teachers as well “the community supporters who recognize these facts are an issue, they see the great that the teachers are doing in the community, that there’s more to the work we’re doing.”

“We’re not asking for the world here, we’re asking for an effort going forward, and right now we’re not getting any reply back that there is going to be that effort,” Piasecki concluded.

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.