Stir working with Milwaukee teachers

MILWAUKEE: Milwaukee public school teachers, frustrated by their inability to get a new contract with the city's schools during the past 14 months, have hired a PR firm to make their case to the public. Stir, a Milwaukee integrated agency, is handling media relations, as well as advertising, for the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association.

MILWAUKEE: Milwaukee public school teachers, frustrated by their inability to get a new contract with the city's schools during the past 14 months, have hired a PR firm to make their case to the public. Stir, a Milwaukee integrated agency, is handling media relations, as well as advertising, for the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association.

Stir helped the union stage a rally April 26 and plans to continue putting the union's key messages before the local media, said Ryan Chuckel, PR director at the agency.

"Our goal is to influence public opinion and create a sense of urgency," he said.

The Milwaukee teachers had agreed to work under their old contract while negotiating for a new deal, but 863 - about 12% of the total teacher work force - have resigned from the district since February of last year.

Teachers are concerned about district proposals to cut fringe benefits and to require them to pay more of their own healthcare costs. The starting salary for Milwaukee teachers is under $30,000 a year.

The union wants to settle on a new contract before the school year ends, fearful more disenchanted teachers will leave during the summer if a new agreement hasn't been reached, Chuckel said.

The schools have worked with another local PR shop, Zeppos & Associates, in the past. But Evan Zeppos, president of the firm, said, "We are not engaged in this issue."

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