By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
Michigan Center Superintendent David Tebo hopes to find middle ground between present-day demands and long-term realities as the district and its teachers continue to negotiate a new contract.
Tebo said both sides have met five times and a mediator is scheduled to join them in upcoming meetings. Much of the conversation focused around health insurance costs and benefits, he said.
Tebo said Michigan Center school employees, including himself, have been accustomed to “Cadillac insurance plans,” but there are more fiscally responsible options that would get rid of what he calls “the middle man,” MESSA.
“I used the analogy (that) you wouldn’t walk into a mechanic and have (them) fix your car and just give them carte blanche to do what they want and send you the bill later,” he said. “But we do that with health insurance — we don’t ask those questions.”
A few months ago, Tebo talked about the possibility of looking into health savings accounts.
Ultimately, he said, he wants his district to be “a more informed consumer of health care.”
Marcy Hartung, a regional director with the Michigan Education Association, said Tebo isn’t afraid to think outside the box — but he needs to be more realistic about some of the concessions he’s seeking.
“Mr. Tebo’s ideas are innovative, and we are considering all of those ideas and all of those things, but sometimes change doesn’t come as quickly as some people would hope and we’re just working slowly through all those issues,” she said.
Tebo said “his teachers are doing a great job,” and he hopes a mediator brings some clarity to a decision that will have long-standing ramifications.
“My big thing is control our legacy costs so we can protect our employees’ jobs long term,” he said.
“We haven’t had to lay people off, we haven’t been a district that’s had to make cuts of people and I’m negotiating from that point of we want to protect our ability to save jobs long term.”