Seeking New Contract, Bemidji Education Association Holds Rally Downtown

After waiting months for a new contract, Bemidji teachers gathered Thursday to prepare for a rally held on Friday at the Lake Bemidji waterfront. Members of the Bemidji Education Association spoke on how they’re trying to gather the community’s support.

“We hope to give the district the idea that we’re not going to back down and we’re not going to go away, like we are one, we are united and we deserve to be paid for the work we’re doing. It’s that idea of if not now, when,” said BEA member Becky Skipper. “There’s a substantial amount of money coming in from the state of Minnesota for the first time ever. And I feel like for many years now, teachers have taken a back seat to the programs that we want to bring into the district and the funding that it takes to bring those and the busing that we pay for in Bemidji. And so it’s kind of this idea that with this extra funding that’s coming in, it’s kind of our turn.”

The main concern for the BEA was letting the community know what was going on behind closed doors.

“I think we have a lot of community members that maybe don’t know that this is happening behind the scenes, that you’ve got teachers working for 260-plus days without a contract,” explained Skipper. “So [we want to] raise some community awareness and some community support behind their teachers and that we’re hoping to come to the table next week and reach an agreement, but that we’re ready to stand together if that doesn’t happen.”

“It’s reassuring that we have a turnout here,” said BEA member Caitlin Djonne of Thursday’s sign-making event. “And I think that is causing us to be hopeful. What we really want is just a fair contract. So as much work as we need to put in to do that, we’ll do, but we’re hoping to reach some sort of agreement soon.”

The BEA will be attending the upcoming Bemidji School Board meeting on Monday, March 18.

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