Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Teachers ratify new contract

Vote overwhelmingly supports 2 percent pay raise

Express Staff Writer

Wood River High School teacher Eleanor Jewett, center, casts her vote Monday on a new contract negotiated between the Blaine County School District and the Blaine County Education Association. The measure passed 133-2. Photo by Willy Cook

Members of the Blaine County Education Association overwhelmingly approved a new contract Monday that would provide them a 2 percent cost-of-living increase effective in July.

The vote was 133-2.

The Blaine County School District board of trustees was scheduled to consider the new contract at its May regular board meeting Tuesday night.

Terms of the agreement were finalized in negotiations between the School District and the association last week. In addition to the 2 percent increase in the base salary structure for teachers, the parties agreed to keep in place a "steps and ladders" program in which some teachers will receive an additional 3 percent increase for furthering their experience or education.

District Assistant Superintendent John Blackman said last week that all district personnel, not just teachers, would receive a 2 percent increase. According to district officials, the 2 percent increase will cost the district about $600,000 annually.

In negotiations last year and the year before, the teachers' association agreed to freeze base salaries, thus foregoing cost-of-living increases.

Teachers voted late Monday afternoon at Carey School and at the Community Campus in Hailey. Votes were counted by members of the association negotiating team and certified by association President Tryntje Van Slyke, a teacher at Wood River Middle School.

"I am happy with everything," Van Slyke said in an interview. "I thought it was really positive."

"I am happy with the agreement," said Wood River High School teacher Mike Walsh, a member of the association negotiating team. "I think in this climate we were treated well. By climate, I mean what's going on in Boise and with the community. A lot of our community is in the same boat as a lot of people with spouses out of work."

Because of new changes in state law, contract negotiations were held in public this year and were restricted to salaries and benefits.

"I feel we went in and did the right thing with what we were given," said Wood River High School teacher Kari Haugen, another member of the negotiating team.

"I think it was a good agreement; it was fiscally responsible and it doesn't raise anybody's taxes in the district at all," said Wood River Middle School teacher Brian Sturges, who also represented the association in negotiations. "It will also put some money back into the local economy."

Other members of the association negotiating team were Hemingway Elementary School teacher Tom Van Slyke and Carey School teacher Elizabeth Young.

The School District was represented in negotiations by school board Chairwoman Julie Dahlgren, Superintendent Lonnie Barber, Assistant Superintendent John Blackman, Business Manager Mike Chatterton, Director of Curriculum Patricia McLean and Wood River Middle School Principal Fritz Peters.

Terry Smith:

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