By Tom Tolen /

There is still no agreement on a contract dispute involving the 325 teachers in the Brighton Area School District and its Board of Education.

The bargaining teams for both sides met Monday in a mediation session that was followed by a regular board meeting. According to Brighton Education Association President Barry Goode, the mediation session with state-appointed mediator Stan Dobry went well, overall, and progress was made. However, Goode added the caveat that, in his words, “We're not where we want to be.” The board went into executive session at the close of its meeting Monday evening, coming back without approving the salary reopener question with the BEA.

The Board also rejected two grievances that had been filed by the BEA. Goode said the Level III grievances pertain to additional duties the teachers have been required to perform since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic such as classroom cleaning, plus the district's inability to comply with social distancing rules — things that, he said, were never negotiated and are not part of the contract. The vote to deny the grievances was 7-0 in each instance. Goode called the rejections “just a formality before we go to arbitration.” Before that happens, however, Goode said the BEA must receive an official denial from the board. As a result, an arbitration hearing has not been scheduled at this time.

According to Board President Andy Burchfield, “A good portion of the community is under the false impression that the teachers don’t have a contract.” He said that is simply not the case and, in fact, they are in year two of a 3-year contract with an annual salary reopener. Burchfield said further that the district has provided teachers this year alone with $734,000 toward their steps on the salary scale, based on the contract, plus 2.3% for professional development, for a total of over $1 million in additional compensation based upon completion of advanced degrees. As such, Burchfield said, unlike what some claim, the board is not being overly cost conscious to the point of not giving teachers what they deserve.

Brighton teachers have the highest average pay of any of the five K-12 Livingston County school districts, a factor due at least in part to Brighton having more veteran teachers with more years of service. In his report Monday, the auditor told the board that the district should have a fund equity of 10-15%. The fund balance is currently just under 10%, Burchfield emphasizing “That’s not liquid cash in the bank.” But despite the lack of agreement on the salary reopener, Burchfield remains optimistic, saying, “Our goal is to get a contract; it’s very important to the community.”