An Open Letter to the Board of Education, Saint Paul Public Schools



February 17th, 2014


Dear Board of Education,


The downturn in the economy has made public education a difficult proposition to deliver in the 21st century.  However we cannot resort to calling our problems solutions and refuse to deal with them.  As the President of AFSCME Local 844, representing the Clerical, Technical, and Distribution Workers at Saint Paul Public Schools, I have seen the cuts that the district has had to make to make ends meet.  Our collective workload has not diminished in the slightest and so many of us have burned the midnight oil to ensure that the 39,000 students in our district are still well served.


I write to you today about the impending strike vote by Saint Paul Federation of Teachers.  A strike is never something that is done in haste.  I was there ten months ago when the teachers kicked off their negotiations campaign.  I listened to Governor Mark Dayton talk about the importance of the items that would be negotiated.  It was apparent that these were not goals simply for the teachers, but for all of us who cared about Saint Paul Public Schools. 


These issues are not only the concern of SPFT, but are the concern of members of my local as well.  Our clerks act as de facto nurses four days out of the week.  Dispensing medicine and caring for sick children has been added to our job duties.  We do not get training on these duties nor possess the knowledge to give the care necessary.  It is our constant concern that it is only a matter of time before one incident makes it apparent to the administration how necessary nurses are to the well being of our schools.


Another concern that we have is class sizes.  The ability to stay in control of a classroom is directly related to the safety of our students and staff.   Large class sizes not only impede student’s ability to learn, but lead to unsafe learning conditions that affect everyone in the building. 


While these issues were once dealt with outside the negotiations process, the Administration’s refusal to solve them makes it necessary to deal with them at negotiations.  The Administration cite all kinds of excuses for why it is impossible to do instead of concentrating on finding a solution.  We need solutions, not excuses.  Our district contains some of the best minds in St. Paul directly because of the legacy our students carry on.  A solution is possible.  We just need to find it.  That is the only thing that will regain the trust that is needed going forward. 


We all understand that budgets do constrict us, but the amount of money paid to consultants in this district gives us hope that money could be found.  Paying $600,000 to evaluate our warehouse just to determine that the way it already was operating was best is just one of example of wasted money that could have been better spent.  As we learn of more consultants hired the question must be asked,  “Is this the money we need to make our district better?” 


In writing this I can only come to one conclusion.  If the Administration fails to solve these issues and fails to negotiate accountability for these issues the children of St. Paul are the losers.  The conversation will continue simply because St Paul children deserve that.



Martin Hoerth

President, AFSCME Local 844

Field Support Technician, Saint Paul Public Schools

(612) 978-7929