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The Journal Gazette

Friday, November 08, 2019 1:00 am

FWCS to stay open despite rally

30 state districts won't as teachers rally at Capitol

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne Community Schools teachers will be “well-represented” at a Nov. 19 rally in Indianapolis, officials said, but the district will not cancel classes. 

Thousands of educators are expected at a Red for Ed Action Day rally at the Statehouse, where teachers from around Indiana will lobby for better pay and working conditions. Thirty school districts will close or hold e-learning days that day, education news website Chalkbeat reported. 

FWCS – the state's largest district with about 30,000 students – will remain open, and Superintendent Wendy Robinson said in a letter to teachers Thursday she backs their efforts. 

“While we are not closing, I firmly believe FWCS will be well-represented at the statehouse on Nov. 19,” she wrote to the district's more than 2,000 teachers. “As superintendent, I have fought for 16 years for funding needed to support the work in public schools and to treat educators as professionals. 

“The salary increase in the contract approved last month went beyond what the state provided for salaries because we know our educators deserve more, and we have worked to find additional resources to make up for the lack of state support.”

Board members in October approved a 2.5% increase in teachers' base salaries, bringing the salary range to $40,078 to $70,891. 

Indianapolis Public Schools announced Wednesday it will close Nov. 19 to allow teachers to attend the rally. 

The Indiana State Teachers Association will host the rally and is encouraging teachers across the state to attend to push for higher salaries and push back against standardized tests that are used to help determine their pay. 

In Allen County, East Allen County Schools and Northwest Allen County Schools also will remain open. 

Tamyra Kelly, an EACS spokeswoman, said some teachers there will wear red and gather with signs before school Nov. 19. She said she did not know how many teachers would attend the rally. 

NACS spokeswoman Lizette Downey also said she did not know how many would go to Indianapolis but said she expected educators to wear red to support their colleagues. 

Southwest Allen County Schools spokeswoman Stacey Fleming said she had not been able to speak with Superintendent Phil Downs – who was not in Fort Wayne for much of Thursday – about whether classes would be canceled. 

Fort Wayne Education Association President Sandra Vohs, whose union represents FWCS teachers, said 6,200 teachers have registered to attend the rally, and 36 districts will close. About 40 local teachers have registered, she said in an email.

“We are trying to get an accurate count of how many FWCS teachers are going – I know the number ... who have registered so far doesn't even represent the number of teachers who have personally told me that they are attending.”

mleblanc@jg.net

Niki Kelly of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.